Beloved Regina teacher and kickboxer to spend holidays fighting rare heart condition in Alberta hospital

At this time of year, Adrienne Mahoney is usually getting her students ready for the Thomson Community School Christmas Concert. This year she is in an Edmonton hospital fighting a rare disease that is trying to shut down her heart.

$18K raised in 5 days to cover medical expenses for rare autoimmune disease

Adrienne Mahoney is fighting an extremely rare autoimmune disease that has stopped her heart from functioning as it should. (GoFundMe)

Adrienne Mahoney is heavily involved in her Regina community.

She plays in a rock band, does Muay Thai kickboxing and teaches art, music and Indigenous studies to students at Thomson Community School.

Now, she is a province away fighting to survive an extremely rare autoimmune disease.

In September, Mahoney began to feel sick. Her sister Gillian said she thought it was the "worst case of the flu."

Eventually, the 33-year-old was rushed to the Regina General Hospital with symptoms of lung and heart failure.

Doctors said her white blood cells had built up and were attacking part of her heart. A titanium device was installed in her heart to pump her blood, as her heart wasn't doing that on its own.

Mahoney and her family had to relocate to Edmonton for her treatment at the Mazankowski Heart Institute.
A titanium device was installed in Mahoney's heart to pump her blood, as her heart wasn’t doing that on its own. (GoFundMe)

She was recently readmitted to the hospital, where she'll stay for at least the next week, to get IV antibiotics for an infection.

"It's been incredibly difficult," Gillian said. "Not only is she my sister, she's my best friend and I'm naturally very protective of her. And just, to not be able to do anything for her and to stand by helplessly has been really upsetting, really hard."

On Saturday, Gillian decided to do her part to help. She started a GoFundMe with hopes to raise $20,000 to cover some of Mahoney's expenses.

In the five days since then, over $18,000 has been pledged.

About $1,500 of that came from Mahoney's students who held a bake sale in their teacher's honour.

"She has a beautiful singing voice and she does art very well," said Grade 7 student Kyra Lerat. "We miss you Miss Mahoney!"

A number of Mahoney's friends in the music scene donated money from recent gigs and the kickboxing club she is part of also gathered funds.

"It just goes to show Adrienne's reach and influence," Gillian said.

Mahoney and her partner are currently renting a place to live in Edmonton while still paying their mortgage back home in Regina.

Some of Mahoney's medical supplies were paid for out of pocket. Doctors are currently picking out a long-term medication for her which they say will likely not be covered. They estimate a cost of about $20,000-$30,000.

Gillian said she's been hanging out with her sister as much as possible in hopes to distract her from the stress of the situation.

"Anyone who knows us knows that we're just two peas in a pod. I'm just doing whatever I can to kind of lift her spirits," she said.

The family will be spending Christmas in Edmonton as Mahoney continues her recovery.

"It goes to show that there are no guarantees in this life and you have to just enjoy your health and your happiness when you have it and just never take anything for granted," Gillian said.

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition, Nichole Huck