“My organ donors gave me the gift of life.” Watch Amy’s story and find out how she’s using these gifts to test her limits. (Video: UHN YouTube)

​Amy Mathers is testing her limit 365 ways over the next year.  Mathers is reading her way across the country to test her limits as a transplant recipient. Each day means a new book to read and each book means she's one step closer to her goal.

"I've always been a reader. It's been a part of me from a very young age because it was a way to experience the world and deal with my situation."

The situation

Mathers received a liver transplant when she was just five years old. Born with glycogen storage disease – a disease that forces the body to store sugar instead of using it for energy – Mathers learned all too quickly that "nothing is guaranteed." The disease caused damage to her heart as well, and at age 27, Mathers received a heart transplant at Toronto General Hospital (TGH).

"From a very young age I've known that every day is a gift," she says. "It's difficult to make long-term plans. I'm trying to enjoy the life that I have."

A dream is born

A few years after her heart transplant in 2009, Mathers decided to make a meaningful long-term goal.

"Because of the glycogen storage disease, walking got harder.  Last year was my first summer using an electric wheelchair and I kept seeing signs for marathons. It was very apparent now that I couldn't do them," Mathers recalls. "I tried to think of what I could do."

She found inspiration in Dr. Heather Ross, Director of the Ted Rogers Centre of Excellence in Heart Function, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and Medical Director of the Cardiac Transplant Program at TGH. Dr. Ross tests her limits by climbing mountains to raise awareness about organ transplant. Mathers couldn't do that – but she could read.

"Reading for me is a way to experience things," Mathers explains.

The concept of the Marathon of Books was born. Starting January 1, 2014, Mathers would read one Canadian book every day and review it online. By reading books from each province and territory, she would make her way across the country.

A meaningful vision

Now, Mathers has read more than 200 books and 46,000 pages in her marathon. She hopes to fundraise enough money to kick- start Canada's first monetary award for teen fiction and raise awareness about her experiences.

​"There's a lot of societal pressure to value health and autonomy. Diseases like mine threaten that. They make people afraid that they're going to be dependent on others and that's a life that's not worth living," she explains. "By doing the Marathon of Books, part of my goal is to say to people, no matter what you can or can't do, there are still ways to contribute to society."

Forever grateful

Without her organ donors, Mathers says she would never have been able to take off on this journey.

"My heart transplant gave me the freedom to go after what I wanted to go after. Some days I wake up and I can hardly believe I've read more than 200 books."

Before she was put on the heart transplant list, Dr. Ross explained to Mathers that the average survival rate post-heart transplant is about nine years. This bit of information has continued to fuel Mathers' desire to accomplish her goals.

"Because I'm experienced with transplant, I know about the uncertainty and it's a powerful motivator," she explains.

"Behind everything, I'm always grateful to my donors and the gift that they've given me. It's amazing that someone would have that kind of selflessness. It is the gift of life."

To follow and support Amy’s Marathon of Books, please visit: amysmar​athonofbooks.ca

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

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