MONTREAL - The father of a 16-year-old girl can't believe a simple viral infection has ended up putting his daughter on a waiting list for a new heart.

"It is something I would not have dreamed of," Robert Seguin said Wednesday. "That same virus that can give you a runny nose can attack the heart."

Seguin's only child remains at the Montreal Children's Hospital where she has been hooked up to a heart-lung machine for 17 days awaiting a heart transplant.

An appeal for donors has gone out across Canada.

Seguin's daughter is suffering from an extremely rare condition called myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that has left her heart unable to pump blood.

Karele Galaise-Seguin was first taken to a nearby hospital from her home in Granby, about 85 kilometres outside Montreal, after she continued to have gastro-intestinal problems for several days.

"She's had gastro and the same symptoms in the past," Seguin said. "But after two-and-a-half days, we started to get worried because nothing stayed down."

There is no cure for the heart condition, although the heart muscle inflammation usually goes away on its own in time. But that did not happen in the teenager's case.

"Her condition started to deteriorate within 24 hours right up to the point where her heart stopped," Seguin said.

He and his partner Annie Galaise met reporters to talk about their daughter's condition and to urge people to make sure they sign their donor cards.

"She cannot move because any movement can cause serious bleeding so they keep her well sedated," he said.

Dr. Pramod Puligandla says the majority of patients who have had the same virus usually get better in a couple of days.

"The virus is everywhere and, if you take 100 cases, the vast number of these cases are not going to progress to this point," he said in an interview.

"This is just an exceptional case where a virus can produce something as severe as Karele has."

Puligandla, who is the primary physician treating the girl, also said she can remain on the heart-lung machine for several more weeks.

"We'll continue to proceed as long as Karele is fit to proceed," he told reporters.

Galaise-Seguin is now into her third week but Puligandla said patients have been known to go for six or seven weeks without running into complications.

Hospital officials also point out that because she has been connected to the heart-lung machine for 17 days, she is on a priority list for a transplant.

"A median time in Quebec is around seven to 10 days in terms of receiving a heart. She has only been listed for five days," Puligandla said.

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