Jeremy Olsen

Meet Jeremy Olsen: A congenital heart disease, heart failure, and heart transplant ‘thriver’.

When Jeremy was born with a very complex heart disorder, surgical procedures were not an option. His family was told that he would not make it to two years of age.

Fortunately, with improving treatments he rode the cusp of medical advancements to age seven when he was able to undergo full reconstructive heart surgery; a surgery he describes as not being perfect but allowing him to survive. He underwent further surgery at age twenty-one then a major atrial fibrillation attack in his late twenties left a cautious reminder of how lucky - and what a fighter – Jeremy really is.

He did not let his heart stop him from living. He returned to school, changed careers and adopted a very active lifestyle. He also married and started a family with his wife, Katherine.

Soon after the arrival of their first child, he discovered he would die without a heart transplant.

“You learn quickly to appreciate life for the moments not the memories, because they can end at any time,” says Jeremy.

In June 2015, he was given another chance with a new heart. It was this new heart that first brought him to Robert Bertelink, Cardiac Rehab Supervisor of Toronto Rehab’s Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program. Rob was able to prescribe fitness and lifestyle changes to help give him more time with his young family.

“Jeremy is a great example of the challenges that can be overcome with hard work and commitment,” says Robert. 

Within a year, he was able to bike 50 kilometers for charity then ran 5 kilometers the following week for the first time in his life. He went on to win two golds, two silvers and two bronzes the Canadian Transplant Games.

But his story continues. He was then diagnosed with a fatal heart transplant disease called Cardiac Allograft Vasculopathy. Faced with the possibility of another transplant, he again consulted Robert at Toronto Rehab who presented new research that offered Jeremy renewed hope.

Robert’s exercise prescription of 300+ minutes of sub-peak cardio per week has led Jeremy on a new path to recovery and a longer life. This vigorous regime is what allows Jeremy demonstrate to his wife and son that he will keep digging deeper – keep fighting.

Learn about Jeremy’s triathlon triumph

Jeremy is grateful for the research advancements that have helped him thrive. Just as he keeps aiming higher, he wants Toronto Rehab to reach more people and expand programming through new innovations.  Please give today in honour of Jeremy and others like him. Help make incredible happen.

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