Dr. George Oreopoulos leads the Vascular Malformation Clinic at UHN's Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, the go-to destination for the most complex cases vascular malformation cases in Canada. (Photo: UHN)

This year marks the 25 th anniversary of the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at UHN. In honour of this milestone, the centre has launched a living library with extraordinary stories of discovery, innovation, and exceptional patient care. Explore world-first breakthroughs in heart and vascular care, witness life-saving interdisciplinary collaborations, and celebrate the rich history of Canada's leading cardiovascular centre at www.dowhateverittakes.ca.

In 1994, when Fareed Mohammed was in high school, he had his first bout of unexplained bleeding.

"I was standing for the morning assembly at school and realized there was blood pooling in my shoe," says Fareed.

He would later be diagnosed with what is now known as Parkes-Weber syndrome, a rare and potentially recurring condition that has only been defined in the last 15 years.

In these rare cases, blood vessels in the body's vascular system can become entangled and multiple irregular connections occur that prevent oxygen-rich blood from reaching its destination. If a malformation occurs in a vessel that supplies a major organ, such as the heart or kidneys, organ failure can happen.

In 2012, the blood vessels in Fareed's leg pressed so hard against his skin that they became exposed and bled spontaneously. Burning pain became an everyday reality for him and moving around took effort.

"The pain was excruciating and endless," he says.

This is when he first met Dr. George Oreopoulos, vascular surgeon and lead of the Vascular Malformation Clinic at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at UHN. Dr. Oreopoulos embolized, or blocked, the bleeding vessels as the first line of treatment.

A problem two inches wide and two feet deep

What's perplexing about vascular malformations is there are many unique characteristics of the disease to every patient, making each case different – like a fingerprint.

According to Dr. Oreopoulos, that makes treating it a problem “two inches wide and two feet deep."

"We have to step back from our training in some ways and look at each individual completely differently. There is no common pathway for this disease," he explains.

In 2004, Fareed Mohammed joined the team who saved his life. He became a medical laboratory technologist in the blood bank at UHN. Watch his story. (Video: UHN)

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