Winnipeg woman who posted inspirational messages as a teen now battling lengthy illness

A Winnipeg woman who inspired others as a young teen by posting messages of hope around the city is now looking for support of her own as she battles a lengthy illness.

Mackenzie Carter was just 13 when she and her sister Mikayla and their friend Marley St. Cyr posted inspirational messages on the streets of Winnipeg in 2013.

The messages were part of a movement called Team Inspire, which encourages youth to be positive and inspire others to do good deeds. Her story was published and broadcast by CBC. 

Carter is now 20 years old.

She suffered cardiac arrest in June of 2020 and was on life support for a week. She survived but spent 118 days in hospital recovering.

“You can’t ever explain 118 days in hospital what that feels like, to lose that much time in your life, you don’t think that will happen when you’re 20,” Carter said. 

Her family is hoping the community now pays it forward by sending Carter messages of support and love.

Carter recalls the day that changed her life.

“I was showering and I ended up collapsing in the shower,” said Carter via Skype on Wednesday.

“My boyfriend heard me fall and came in but I was already unconscious at the bottom of the tub. He gave me CPR and called 911,” she said.

“I had probably about 90 minutes of resuscitation before I got to the hospital.”

Infection attacked heart, stomach

Doctors told Carter a previous viral infection had attacked her heart and her stomach.

She was diagnosed with gastroparesis, a stomach disease. She also has a carditis which affects her heart.

On top of that, she has suffered from blood clots, anoxic brain injury and sepsis.

“I’ve had multiple surgeries, I now have a defibrillator implant, and a stomach tube,” she said.

20 year-old Mackenzie Carter, was just 13 when she posted inspirational messages around the city of Winnipeg. Her family says Carter now needs her own messages of hope and support after suffering cardiac arrest and having multiple surgeries. (Nicole Carter)

Carter was released from St.Boniface Hospital two months ago, but is going back in for stomach surgery on Friday afternoon.

She is nervous about going to the hospital alone.

“I was fortunate when I was in the hospital [before] to at least have my family there, but with COVID right now … no.”

Carter said she’s also been struggling with her mental health.

“I’m hanging in there, I’m definitely thankful that I’m still here, I try not to be sad because I shouldn’t be sad, and I’m still alive,” Carter said.

“But it’s very hard with COVID right now. You can’t see anybody, there’s no support groups, it’s very lonely,” she added.

‘She has a huge heart’

Adele Levreault, a close family friend is calling on the community to send Carter cards and letters of inspiration.

“Because as a little girl … she cared for others when others needed her,” said Levreault

Levreault has already collected dozens of gifts from relatives and strangers including cards made children at a local daycare. 

Mackenzie Carter’s family is asking the public to send cards and well wishes as Mackenzie, 20, copes with heart and other health issues. Mackenzie was part of a group of teens who spread messages of hope around Winnipeg in 2013 as part of a movement called Team Inspire. (Nicole Carter)

“She just has a huge heart, and it’s truly about her fight now and how sick she’s been, and just making sure that she knows she’s not alone,” said Levreault.

“We call her a warrior,” said Mackenzie’s mother Nicole Carter who feared her daughter was on the brink of losing her life.

“It’s hard as a parent to sit there and see your kid [like that] and you can’t take that away,” she said.

“The fact that she has come back, there’s no words, like for me it just confirms my faith in miracles and prayers, and love,” said Nicole Carter.

She said Mackenzie, who had been working as a hair stylist before she got sick, still cares a lot about her community, and always puts others first.

“She has this fierce inner strength like don’t mess with her because the strength is there, she’s determined and she will overcome things … she’s amazing.”

Mackenzie Carter, 20, seen here in hospital after leaving the ICU back in June of 2020. She suffered cardiac arrest and has had multiple surgeries since then. (Nicole Carter)

The family is asking cards for Mackenzie be sent to 477 Stalker Bay in Winnipeg.

She said she’s grateful for the dozens of cards she’s received from strangers so far.

“My parent’s friends, their high school friends, people I used to work with, so many,” she said.

“It really kinda brings a light to the end of the tunnel for me, and it shows me that people do care even if you don’t know them.”