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The gravity of his heart condition hit Sari during a trip to Niagara Falls. On his way up a small hill – one he had conquered many times before – the 29-year-old had to stop.
"Just a few steps and I was out of breath – I couldn't do it. Mid-climb, I just sat there and I started bawling," he said.
In 2011, Sari was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – an enlarged heart.
"All of a sudden it started," he recalled. "I would be sitting at home, watching TV and I would have crazy palpitations, racing heartbeats as if I just ran a marathon."
Initially, a pacemaker and medications regulated his condition, but in 2013 the symptoms became harder to manage.
"Over the first six months of 2013 everything just started spiralling," said Sari.
Toronto General Hospital's world-class transplant program drew Sari to the hospital, and he immediately met with Dr. Heather Ross, Director of the Ted Rogers Centre of Excellence in Heart Function at PMCC and Medical Director of the Cardiac Transplant Program at TGH.
The road to transplant
Over the next few months, the support he received from his family members and fiancée was crucial to Sari maintaining a positive attitude.
Sari's family accompanied him to many meetings at TGH and found comfort in the transplant and cardiac teams' knowledge and expertise.
Just a month after his first meeting with Dr. Ross, he was put on the transplant list. A week later, he and his family found out a donor heart was available. Sari received a transplant in August 2013.
"It all happened so quickly, it was hard to register," he explains. "It's registering now – I got a new life."
Conquering that hill (and many others)
Since Sari's transplant, he's tried to do as much as possible – simply because, now, he can.
"I want to do so many things. I want to take advantage of it. Dr. Ross is a leader, she's an example."
To celebrate his one-year heart transplant anniversary, he completed the CN Tower's EdgeWalk, walking around the circumference of the CN Tower's roof.
"I've learned to take advantage of every moment and just enjoy life," Sari says with a smile.
Notably, his transplant has allowed him to conquer that hill at Niagara Falls – a small mountain, Sari says, compared to those Dr. Ross climbs, but an important milestone nonetheless.
"I'm very grateful to my donor and their family. It's a very courageous thing to do – to be able to make that decision as a family to donate an organ."
To sign up to be an organ donor, click here: beadonor.ca/
To learn more about Dr. Heather Ross’ 2014 trek to Bhutan, visit: inaheartbeat.ca