Katie Shea was just 41 when she was diagnosed with a genetic type of heart muscle disease that is a common cause of heart failure. She had been feeling exhausted but at the time had chalked it up to caring for her three young children.
The implications of her diagnosis – dilated cardiomyopathy – were frightening: it was unclear how long she would be able to live with the condition. She would need to go on daily medications and have a defibrillator implanted.
“I painfully struggled with the fact that no matter what I did, no matter how hard I worked, this was never going away,” she wrote in a blog post following her diagnosis. “I grieved the loss of the old me. … I wondered how the new me was going to raise my children while I adjusted to treatment.”
That day, Shea joined one million other Canadians who have experienced various forms of heart failure. The news was devastating, but she was thankful to receive cutting-edge care and participate in the groundbreaking genetic research of scientists and clinicians at the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research.
These efforts received a major boost last October when the Rogers Foundation announced a $90-million donation – matched with $94.2 million in institutional support and additional fundraising – that will significantly expand the centre’s capabilities.
The new gift comes on top of a record $130-million donation the foundation made in 2014 to establish the centre, a collaboration that harnesses the strengths of its three institutional partners – the Hospital for Sick Children, University Health Network (UHN) and U of T – to reduce the impact of heart failure in Canada.1
Researchers at the centre are using artificial intelligence to analyze complex patient data and predict and prevent heart failure. They are building on genetic and biomarker research to reveal the underlying mechanisms of heart failure and to identify new treatments. The centre will also expand genomics-based diagnosis for heart failure, including identification of the genetic causes of cardiomyopathy and congenital heart disease.
After her diagnosis, Shea had her own children screened with echocardiograms and electrocardiograms at SickKids. “Thankfully, all results came back noting normal cardiac function,” she says.
Cutting hospitalizations in half
One of the centre’s biggest achievements in its first decade has been to cut rehospitalizations for heart failure at UHN in half, says Dr. Mansoor Husain, the centre’s executive director. He hopes the new funding will help prevent hospitalizations for heart failure on a global scale.
This will involve the enhancement of the centre’s Digital Health Platform, which enables the rapid assessment and triaging of patients in real time with wearable devices, sensor-based technologies and AI. This platform will expand across Canada and internationally, beginning with underserved communities, as well as children and youth.
The gift will also help train the next generation of leaders in cardiac care.