Join the Conga line to fund cardiac care and research

In the summer of 2003, an otherwise-healthy Paula Shields returned from a Caribbean vacation with Salmonella bacteria poisoning. Within two weeks her heart was so badly swollen from infection, she could barely breathe, and only a heart transplant would save her 29-year-old life. She was admitted to Toronto General Hospital’s Reuben and Florence Fenwick Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.

After being diagnosed with acute myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle walls, Paula was connected to a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD). Essentially a mechanical heart, this groundbreaking technology profoundly changes the outlook for patients like Paula, giving the gift of time while waiting for a heart transplant. The external device boasts almost a 100 per cent success rate. In some cases, the LVAD can allow the heart to rest long enough to recover on its own. For Paula, the mechanical heart sustained her life for five days when a donor heart became available.”I still can’t believe I was so close to death,” says Paula. “I’m enormously grateful for my donor’s heart and for the expert care I received. Thanks to Toronto General Hospital, I got my life back. Now every day is like a gift.”

Paula’s care team during this health crisis were the physicians and surgeons of the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC) at University Health Network, home to the largest heart and circulation program in Canada. Proceeds from Toronto’s 39th annual Brazilian Carnival Ball – on Thursday, May 19th – will go to PMCC this year, to support research into the solutions to severe and complex cases like Paula’s. Researchers at PMCC are currently exploring the promise of regenerative medicine, which would see patients like Paula grow new heart tissue to replace the damaged tissue.

By concentrating all cardiac and vascular care into one program at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC), this multi-disciplinary Centre brings the finest heart and circulation specialists and the latest technology together across North America and around the world.

Some of the cardiac “world firsts” achieved by the PMCC team include:

  • 1987 – First aortic valve replacement using the Toronto Heart Valve
  • 1990 – Developed first genetic test to determine viral heart disease
  • 1999 – First clinical trial of evaluating strategies to treat sleep apnea in patients with heart failure
  • 2001 – Development of new pig valve and aorta to replace the diseased aortic root

Canadian “firsts” include:

  • 1985 – First double-lung heart transplant
  • 1997 – First hospital to perform ventricular volume reduction a surgical procedure to reduce enlarged hearts in patients suffering from congestive heart failure
  • 2003 – First successful ABIOMED (mechanical assist device) bridge to transplant

Each year, about 17,000 patients are treated at PMCC, and 2,700 patients undergo open-heart surgery. These patients receive the best in compassionate, advanced care. At the same time, tomorrow’s cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons and other healthcare professionals are training at PMCC, learning today’s most advanced techniques.

PMCC is based at Toronto General Hospital – a member of the University Health Network, which also includes Toronto Western Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital. All three are teaching hospitals affiliated with the University of Toronto.

University Health Network draws on the combined expertise of these three leading hospitals to make success stories happen every day. Over 10,000 health-care professionals share innovate approaches, knowledge and resources. UHN attracts some of the most brilliant professionals in the world, and invests more than $100 million in research each year. Over 3,500 healthcare professionals are trained at UHN annually. For more information about the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, visit