At 48, personal trainer and certified fitness instructor Annie Smith was as physically fit as one could get, spending her days in her home fitness studio training with clients. When she began to notice problems with her heart rate during her indoor spin workout, Annie knew something was wrong.
At her local hospital, she underwent a procedure to receive an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) in her chest to regulate her heart rate, but unfortunately that didn’t solve the problems with her heart.
Finally, Annie ended up under the care of Dr. Heather Ross, cardiologist and Director of Cardiology at Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC). She was diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening inflammatory heart condition, cardiac sarcoidosis. A treatment plan was created involving many medications, steroids being one of them, which caused some unpleasant side effects.
While this incurable disease, along with an ICD, would prevent most people from remaining active, it didn’t stop Annie. She created a plan to walk 10 kilometers every day along with a modified strength training and spin routine to maintain her fitness level and combat the side effects that came from her daily medications.
Over the next eight months, Annie walked 1,848 kilometers – the same distance as walking from downtown Toronto to Manitoba. Not every day was easy, and there were times she wanted a break, but knowing how great she would feel afterwards kept her going. Annie’s plan was so successful, and she was so appreciative of the care she received at PMCC that she decided to walk for a good cause, Dr. Ross’ Test Your Limits campaign.
Test Your Limits is an initiative Dr. Ross started in 2006 to raise awareness and support for heart failure research, cardiac transplantation and heart health. Accompanied by doctors and transplant patients, Dr. Ross has climbed in Nepal, trekked in Bhutan and skied to the North and South Poles, raising more than $2 million for the cause.
Wanting to give back and help others living with heart disease, Annie resolved to complete a very ambitious four-day 120 kilometer walkathon in her fitness studio. To easily collect donations for the Test Your Limits campaign, she created an online personal fundraising page on the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation (TGWHF) website with a goal of $5,000.
“I told [TGWHF] exactly what I wanted to do, where I wanted the proceeds to go, when I wanted to do it, and within a few days my personal fundraising page was set up and people were donating” says Annie. “Within a week I was well over $1,000. It was easy for people to go online, click and donate.”
The personal fundraising page allowed Annie to post her story and photos of her life that could be shared through social media to raise awareness for her cause.
Annie exceeded her own expectations, walking an astounding 161 kilometers and raising $5,500 for the Test Your Limits campaign.
Her friends and loved ones are incredibly proud of her. “This long-weekend, Annie raised the bar, and tested her limits. She came out on top. I cannot express my pride in her, and how lucky I feel to call her my mom and my best friend” says Tessa Smith, Annie’s daughter.
Annie is an inspiration. She has named the walkathon “Annie’s Pace” and plans to turn it into an annual event. She credits TGWHF for helping to reach her fundraising goal through her personal fundraising page. The money will go directly to the Test Your Limits campaign making heart failure and transplantation research possible.
To learn more about personal fundraising pages with the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation, visit tgwhf.ca