Julia Xu with her parents Zengqi Xu and Aibo Ding.
Julia Xu with her parents Zengqi Xu and Aibo Ding.

Putting the heart in heart care

As primary caregiver for her parents, Julia Xu regularly attends their medical appointments. But when her dad experienced heart palpitations, Julia grew increasingly concerned. Find out why her family chose to travel far from home for care.

When Zengqi Xu started feeling fast, fluttering heartbeats, his daughter Julia began to worry. She took her dad to a checkup where he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, or abnormal palpitations. Their doctor referred Zengqi to a longtime colleague, Dr. Mohammad Zia, Chief of Cardiology at Michael Garron Hospital.

Julia lives with her parents in Vaughan, about an hour away. “The doctor said we would be in the best hands with Dr. Zia. So I knew it would be worth it to make the drive and the experience exceeded our expectations.”

Zengqi and his wife Aibo Ding emigrated from Qingdao, China. Because they don’t speak English, Julia takes time from her busy work schedule to attend their medical appointments and help translate.

But it was her first time having to navigate a heart concern. She looked to learn as much as she could on the internet. But the more Julia googled, the more frightened she felt. Her anxiety was high.

Caring for patients and their families

Zengqi was scheduled to see Dr. Zia for an angiogram, which is a test to pinpoint cardiac issues. Generally considered to be a safe procedure, minor side effects are common and there is a slight risk of serious complications.

“I didn’t sleep at all the night before,” says Julia. “We arrived at Michael Garron very early in the morning. I was surprised to see the entire team hard at work when most people in the city were probably just waking up.”

The Xus were warmly greeted upon arrival. When speaking to them, Dr. Zia supported Julia as she explained the procedure to her parents.

“In that moment, I was so touched that he talked to us personally,” says Julia. “We could tell everyone really cared. Even while they were under great pressure during the pandemic, their kindness showed. The whole process ran very smoothly.”

While Zengqi was being monitored in the recovery bay following the procedure, Dr. Zia spoke to Julia about the test results and next steps.

Generosity has no boundaries

“We left knowing that we had to do something for the hospital, even though it’s not the one closest to our home,” says Julia. “I immediately saw it as a chance to make a meaningful contribution. We want the next family to get the same warm and friendly care we did.”

When asked about her advice for people who are caring for their parents, she says, “I try to be at all their doctor’s appointments. The health system is complicated, especially when there’s a language barrier. I know it helps them to know I’m there for them. And it helps me to be able to connect with people like Dr. Zia and his team along the way.”

Putting excellent cardiac care within reach for more people

Julia is happy to share that her dad’s heart is healthy. Her gift to our hospital supports life-saving care at our cardiac catheterization lab, which is where heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Michael Garron Hospital is one of just five Toronto hospitals to offer advanced cardiac care. And it’s a good thing too because there’s a high incidence of heart disease in our community due to age and other risk factors.

With your help, we can double capacity at our cath lab to serve 3,000 patients each year. Join Julia in bringing our life-changing and life-saving heart care to everyone who needs it, please donate today.