Saving lives against the odds

It was like a scene from a movie: Charles Cook’s car drove off the road and was airborne, then dangerously skidded across multiple lanes before coming to a stop. Had a passerby not seen the wreck, Charles could have died that day.

The dramatic car crash was caused by a stroke due to a condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a disease that causes the muscle of the heart to thicken, restricting blood flow and affecting the heart’s rhythm.

Diagnosed with HCM as a teenager, the disease remained dormant until that fateful day. When Charles came to Toronto General Hospital’s Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, he was told his heart was operating at only 30 per cent of what it should be.

To survive, Charles would need a heart transplant.

Unfortunately, thousands of patients just like Charles sit on the transplant list awaiting their donor organ match. It can take months – or even years – before an organ becomes available.

Charles kept a positive attitude and thankfully, he was one of the lucky ones. He received his heart transplant in April 2016.

Against the odds, Charles is alive today. He has a message for the hospital staff who saved his life: “There are no people I trust more than my doctors at Toronto General. From the bottom of my new heart, thank you.”

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