Heart health Sunnyview

Mending broken hearts

UPDATE: As of January 2013, Sunnybrook is one of six sites in Ontario receiving government funding. Collectively, TAVI donor support totalling $2.5 million for the surgical devices has led to a permanent change in the way health care is delivered and has allowed Sunnybrook to establish a TAVI centre of excellence. Most importantly, 150 lives have been saved with this procedure.


76-year-old Gordon Golding remembers seeing two pesky dandelions on his lawn, and wanting to rip them out. No surprise. But by the time he reached his shed to fetch the proper tools to do the job, he was completely out of breath. Big surprise.

Over time, one of Gordon’s heart valves had become blocked. It’s a common problem that gets more difficult to fix as we age, because traditional treatments are invasive. And Gordon’s situation was particularly dire. Knowing that drug treatment wouldn’t keep him alive for long, he needed another option, fast.

He then got a call that would save his life, and make him the first patient at Sunnybrook’s Schulich Heart Centre to undergo a procedure called TAVI (which stands for transcatheter aortic valve implantation). It’s a gentler procedure to repair diseased heart valves, which only requires catheters to be inserted through the groin to find the right spot to replace the valve. Patients spend less time in the operating room, leave hospital more quickly, and most importantly, live! Learn how to support Schulich Heart Centre.

But there is a pricey catch: more than $20,000 per valve to be exact. TAVI has been done thousands of times in Europe, and is a proven lifesaver. But here in Canada, Sunnybrook is one of only a handful of centres offering it. Because TAVI is considered experimental, the Ministry of Health doesn’t cover the cost, meaning each valve has to be purchased through patient donations. The bottom line is, many patients are going without.

When I met Gordon here at Sunnybrook, he was in for his follow up. As I sat in on his echocardigram, I saw a strong heart beating on the monitor and a very happy man looking on. When it comes to second chances, it’s hard to put a dollar value on that.

Anyone interested in making a donation can go to the Sunnybrook website.

About the author

Monica Matys

Monica Matys

Monica Matys is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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