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Roberto Lio was told by doctors in 2008 to expect to live a limited life.
He was only 44 years old but after experiencing some gradual shortness of breath while jogging, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and arrhythmia caused by viral cardiomyopathy. A defibrillator was implanted in his chest to decrease the risk of suffering a fatal arrhythmia and he faced the possibility of requiring a heart transplant.
"I was confused and in disbelief, and two questions kept going through my mind…how did this happen to me and what was the cause," says Roberto.
He was sick, scared, and in need of hope when he enrolled in Toronto Rehab's Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program. There, he found the physical and mental support that was vital to his recovery, plus the tools that enabled him to become fitter than he was prior to his diagnosis.
Program staff taught him about nutrition and the important functions of the heart. He also learned how to manage his blood pressure, cholesterol and stress, mostly through exercise.
"Cardiac Rehab gave me hope, drive and determination to get better and live a healthier life," says Roberto.
"I don't think I would be where I am today if I hadn't received the medical care of my cardiologist, the support of my wife, Sonia, and the education and motivation of the Toronto Rehab care team."
Roberto is now a committed participant in events that raise money for the Toronto Rehab Foundation, and cardiac rehab programs.
Walking a path to good health
This past Saturday, May 25th, Roberto was a key member of Team Toronto Rehab, for the 35th anniversary of the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada's (CHFC) WALK OF LIFE, held at the Ontario Science Centre.
As the top fundraiser, he raised $11,600 for a cause he holds close to his heart.
"When I ask people to sponsor me, they know it is a fundraiser, but they also know that it is something that I believe in, because it helped me so much," says Roberto.
He likes to share his personal story with friends and colleagues, when promoting his fundraising efforts, because he knows it can help others like him.
When Roberto describes the severity of his past illness and lifestyle changes, people are astounded that he was once so ill and lived with such doubt and fear.
"Roberto's commitment to living a healthier life is inspiring," says Cindy Yelle, President and CEO of the Toronto Rehab Foundation. "The guy just never gives up.
"With the help of Toronto Rehab, Roberto was able to change the course of his life for the better. And now, he devotes his time and resources to help others on the path to good health."
A renewed relationship with community partners
When Toronto Rehab first launched its cardiac rehab program in 1968, it wasn't commonly understood that regular exercise could help recovering heart patients.
In fact, when Rumsey opened its door in October 1980, it was the only space in the world exclusively devoted to the care of heart attack sufferers.
The support of the CHFC was critical in advancing Toronto Rehab's pioneering research and advocacy of walking and exercise.
In 1984, CHFC founded the WALK OF LIFE in support of Toronto Rehab's cardiac rehab program and the event has since gone on to also fund other organizations across Canada, who are dedicated to keeping our population's hearts healthy.
The cardiovascular rehab program at UHN now sees more than 2,400 patients each year in its two fully integrated locations at Toronto Rehab's Rumsey Centre and the Toronto Western site of the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre.
Recognizing the value of collaborating with partners to support a healthier world, participants of Toronto Rehab Foundation's previous "On Track to Cardiac Recovery" fundraising walk are now invited to join Roberto and Team Toronto Rehab each year at the WALK OF LIFE.
Together, they will continue supporting important innovations in the cardiac rehab program, such as
Health e-University and the Toronto Rehab Chair in Cardiac Rehabilitation.