Tag Archives: Transplant

This N.S. woman who had a heart transplant is meeting the donor’s family

Two years after a heart transplant saved her life, Monique Pelletier of Timberlea, N.S., is going to meet the donor’s family.

Next month, 18 members of the Krieger family will travel from Alberta to Wolfville, N.S., to meet with Pelletier.

“I think it is going to be an amazing experience because she seems like a wonderful, loving, heartfelt woman. We’re so happy, yet we’re nervous,” said Cindy Krieger.

Her daughter, Morghan Krieger, was a music therapy student at Acadia University in Wolfville. The 19-year-old, a Type 1 diabetic, died in Halifax on Jan. 18, 2018. It is her heart now beating inside Pelletier’s chest.

Morghan Krieger was an accomplished vocalist who was known for her free spirit and willingness to help others. Over the 2016 Christmas break, her family worked with an orphanage in Tanzania.

Benefit hockey game

Besides coming to meet Pelletier, the Krieger family will be attending a benefit hockey game, the first annual Krieger Cup Hockey Game, which will take place on Jan. 11, 2020.

Morghan Krieger only went to Acadia for four months, but made many friends. All proceeds from the game will go to the Morghan Krieger Memorial Award, a $ 1,000 scholarship that goes to a full-time music therapy student in their second or third year.

Morghan Krieger was a music therapy student at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. She was also an organ donor. (Submitted by the Krieger family)

The hockey game will see residents of Cutten House, the residence Krieger lived in at Acadia, play against other students.

The Cutten Titans will be wearing special jerseys with Krieger’s initials sewn into them over their hearts.

Pelletier’s need for a transplant stemmed from a heart condition called atrial fibrillation. It affects about 200,000 Canadians, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and often left Pelletier short of breath. Doctors told her she might not survive.

The jerseys worn by the players from Cutten House, the residence where Morghan Krieger lived, have her initials sewn over the heart. (Submitted by the Krieger family)

Pelletier was put on a heart transplant list and after just one day, she got surprising news.

“I got a call from the nurse transplant co-ordinator that a heart was available and did I wish to accept it,” said Pelletier, who oversees screening agents at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. “I was just in shock.”

The surgery was successful and just four months later, Pelletier took part in a 5K race at the 2018 Blue Nose Marathon in Halifax.

She now goes for walks regularly with her new dog and is in good overall health.

Monique Pelletier, left, with her partner, Jessica LeBlanc. Pelletier says her life has completely changed since getting a new heart nearly two years ago. (Submitted by Monique Pelletier)

One year ago, Pelletier still didn’t know whose heart was beating inside her. She desperately wanted to thank the family of the donor, so she wrote an emotional letter to the organ care centre.

It wasn’t long before Pelletier was connected with Cindy Krieger of Calgary.

“It’s just awesome to know that someone is still living with our daughter’s heart,” said Krieger. “I kept believing it and our dream has come true.”

She said someone is also benefiting from her daughter’s donated lungs.

An impassioned plea

Pelletier, who will also be at the hockey game, has this message for people who are not currently organ donors.

“It makes the difference between life and death and if you can help someone save their life, then do it,” said Pelletier as she fought back tears.

“There are a lot of people who are stuck on the waiting list and they’re struggling with their life, but once you have passed, your organs can save six to eight people, so why wouldn’t you want to do that?”

Legislation is currently in the works for Nova Scotia that will make the province the first jurisdiction in North America to have presumed consent for organ and tissue donation.

People will still be able to opt out of donating their organs, but the onus will be on them to do so once the bill is proclaimed.


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U.S. teen gets double lung transplant after ‘enormous’ vaping damage

A Michigan teenager was the recipient of what could be the first double lung transplant on a person whose lungs were severely damaged from vaping, health officials said Tuesday.

Doctors at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit described to reporters Tuesday the procedure that saved the 17-year-old’s life and pleaded for the public to understand the dangers of vaping.

The teen was admitted in early September to a Detroit-area hospital with what appeared to be pneumonia. He was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit and taken Oct. 3 to Henry Ford Hospital where the transplant was performed Oct. 15. The double lung transplant is believed to be the first performed on a patient due to vaping.

Doctors found an “enormous amount of inflammation and scarring” on the teen’s lungs, said Dr. Hassan Nemeh, surgical director of thoracic organ transplant at Henry Ford. “This is an evil I haven’t faced before. The damage that these vapes do to people’s lungs is irreversible. Please think of that — and tell your children to think of that.”

Health officials declined to release the teen’s name and said he is expected to recover. They also did not specify what the teen vaped or how long he vaped.

Our lives have been forever changed– Statement from family 

“We asked Henry Ford doctors to share that the horrific life-threatening effects of vaping are very real!” his family said in a statement released by the hospital. “Our family could never have imagined being at the centre of the largest adolescent public health crisis to face our country in decades.

“Within a very short period of time, our lives have been forever changed. He has gone from the typical life of a perfectly healthy 16-year-old athlete — attending high school, hanging out with friends, sailing and playing video games —  to waking up intubated and with two new lungs, facing a long and painful recovery process as he struggles to regain his strength and mobility, which has been severely impacted.”

The boy had his 17th birthday after initially being admitted to the hospital.

More than 2,000 Americans who vape have gotten sick since March — many of them teenagers and young adults — and at least 40 people have died.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week announced a breakthrough into the cause of a vaping illness outbreak, identifying the chemical compound vitamin E acetate as a “very strong culprit” after finding it in fluid taken from the lungs of 29 patients. Vitamin E acetate was previously found in liquid from electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices used by many who got sick and only recently has been used as a vaping fluid thickener.

Many who got sick said they had vaped liquids that contain THC, the high-inducing part of marijuana, with many saying they received them from friends or bought them on the black market.

E-cigarettes and other vaping devices heat a liquid into an inhalable vapour. Most products contained nicotine, but THC vaping has become more common.

Henry Ford doctors did not say Tuesday what the lung transplant recipient vaped. They did say that he was critically ill when he arrived at Henry Ford where he was placed Oct. 8 on an organ transplant waiting list. His lung damage due to vaping was so severe and he was so close to death that the teen was immediately placed at the top of the transplant waiting list, they said.

“Vaping-related injuries are all too common these days. Our adolescents are faced with a crisis,” said Dr. Lisa Allenspach, pulmonologist and the medical director of Henry Ford’s Lung Transplant Program. “We are just beginning to see the enormous health consequence jeopardizing the youth in our country … these vaping products should not be used in any fashion.”

The 17-year-old’s case doesn’t open any new ethical considerations about transplants for people who have irreparably damage their own lungs by vaping, Nemeh told the Associated Press.

“It won’t change what we do on a routine basis. We will still evaluate every patient as an individual patient,” he said. “We hope sharing this patient’s story prevents anyone else from experiencing a vaping injury that would require a transplant.”

Nemeh added that lung transplants have been considered for ex-smokers who have quit and demonstrated that they quit smoking, but transplants are not routinely done for people over the age of 70.

“Children do receive priority over an adult for a transplant from a pediatric donor,” he said. “The United Network for Organ Sharing creates the rules and then offers the organs to recipients who are a match. We don’t decide who gets an offer.”

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Vaping-related lung transplant performed at Detroit hospital

Doctors at a Detroit hospital have performed a double lung transplant on a man whose lungs were damaged from vaping.

No other details of the transplant were released Monday by Henry Ford Health System, which has scheduled a news conference Tuesday. The patient has asked his medical team to share photographs and an update to warn others about vaping.

More than 2,000 Americans who vape have gotten sick since March, many of them teenagers and young adults, and at least 40 people have died.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week announced a breakthrough into the cause of a vaping illness outbreak, identifying a chemical compound as a “very strong culprit.”

Vitamin E acetate previously was found in liquid from electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices used by many who got sick and only recently has been used as a vaping fluid thickener.

Many who got sick said they had vaped liquids that contain THC, the high-inducing part of marijuana.

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P.E.I. woman spending life savings waiting for lung transplant in Toronto

Lorraine MacKenzie would rather be at her home in Beach Point, P.E.I., but is currently living in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, desperately waiting for a lung transplant.

MacKenzie has genetic idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, also known as lung scarring, which runs in her family. Several of her relatives have already died from the disease.

The only solution is to get a lung transplant. The problem for MacKenzie and other Atlantic Canadians is that the surgery isn’t done anywhere in the region.

Instead, patients have to relocate to Toronto to get the surgery and since donated lungs can only live outside the body for several hours, transplant candidates have to be near the hospital.

But the cost of moving to Toronto until a match is found — an average wait of six months — and then remaining another three months during the long post-transplant recovery, is only partly covered by the Atlantic provinces.

“There are a lot of people out here who cannot afford to be here. They really, really can’t. There are some who have chosen to die because they can’t be here,” MacKenzie said. 

“It’s heartbreaking to watch these.”

While MacKenzie believes her savings will be enough to support her and her husband in Toronto while she waits for new lungs, she’s lobbied the P.E.I. government to increase its funding for patients needing to pay for accommodations.

$ 4,000 a month in rent

In order to make the move, MacKenzie’s husband took an early retirement and the couple has been using their savings to live in Toronto while she waits for surgery.

They’ve been in the city since April and are currently staying at a friend’s place for the summer. She said prior to that, they had been paying $ 4,000 a month for a two-bedroom condo and will be moving into another condo that costs the same amount in September.

“It’s an expensive move. There’s no two ways about it,” she said.

MacKenzie says she and her husband are using up their savings to keep up with the cost of living in Toronto, but said many others she’s spoken to are unable to and some have chosen to die instead. ( Ivan Arsovski/CBC)

Most of their expenses have had to be paid out of pocket because the government of P.E.I. only pays $ 1,000 for living expenses, the lowest in Atlantic Canada.

“We’re just slugging here one day at a time, one foot in front of the other and doing what we have to do,” MacKenzie said.

MacKenzie had reached out to the previous Liberal government before it called an election in April. She’s hoping that the new Progressive Conservative government will make a change.

“They have to for people out there who don’t have any savings … You can be young and need a transplant. There’s people out there who cannot afford to come. So they just have to step this up,” MacKenzie said.

Province to increase funding 

P.E.I. Minister of Health and Wellness James Aylward said the issue is “a top priority” and that his department is actively working to try and increase funding for living costs. 

P.E.I. Health Minister James Aylward says he recently found out about the issue, but his department is doing research to try and increase funding for living costs for lung patients as soon as possible. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

“This just recently came to my attention and I’ve already asked the staff to do a full jurisdictional scan,” he said. “I, as minister, want to know what all of the provinces across Canada and the territories are providing for their citizens as well.”

Aylward did not specify how much he would increase funding by, but said he plans to make an announcement in September, which the province will be designating idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis month.

More P.E.I. news 

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Lung transplant cost almost ended her life, now she’s home with new lungs

Natalie Jarvis lifts up her grandson, Kolby, and places him on a swing. It’s a simple moment, but one that was impossible a few months ago.

“It’s the small things that I want to enjoy,” said Jarvis. “I just want to know that I can breathe.”

The Nova Scotian woman is celebrating her second chance at life after nearly choosing to die because of how much it would cost to keep her alive.

In December, Jarvis was told she urgently needed a double lung transplant to survive, and in order to get one, she and her mother would have to move to Toronto and wait for a match.

Jarvis, who is now 43-years-old, initially thought her life was over. She couldn’t afford Toronto’s soaring rental prices.

“Dying should not be the first choice that people should have to make.”

Jarvis’s doctor convinced her to give Toronto a try. After she spoke to CBC News about the crippling costs of receiving a transplant, she received donations from across the country.

“It’s amazing how much support I actually got,” she said. “Not only from family and friends, but just from strangers.”

Natalie Jarvis celebrates moving back home after her double lung transplant. She says it feels amazing to breathe in the country air. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Jarvis received her double lung transplant on April 21, but her recovery was a struggle. She was unconscious for three weeks while her body fought a series of complications.

“I’m not going to lie, it was hard after I did wake up. Especially when you’ve been out for so long after surgery your muscles are weakened, you can’t walk.”

It wasn’t until June that she was strong enough to take her first steps outside.

“That first breath outside was amazing. It really was. Nothing could ever replace it,” she said. “They say it’s like being born again and that’s exactly what it is, it’s like being born again.”

Now that she’s home, Jarvis is focusing on spending time with family, and laughs when she explains her bucket list has changed. Instead of going skydiving, she’ll settle for a trip in a hot air balloon. She would like to go on a proper vacation — something she’s never done before.  

Speaking up for those too sick to speak for themselves

Jarvis has to return to Toronto for checkups every three months over the next year. She estimates it will be at least that long before she’s well enough to go back to work.

In the meantime, she plans to advocate for other lung patients who are too sick to speak up for themselves. Jarvis’s story inspired the Nova Scotia government to increase its living allowance for lung patients and others who have to leave the province for treatment. The other Maritime provinces have yet to follow suit.

She says she met other families in Toronto who had to sell their homes to pay their bills. One couple was struggling to make ends meet, so she gave some of her donations them. 

“I wanted to give back. So that was my giving back.”

Jarvis says she thinks of her donor and their family often. She doesn’t know anything about them, but she intends to write a letter, leaving the door open to meeting them one day.


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BC Transplant says misunderstanding led to liver transplant human rights case

BC Transplant says a misunderstanding about the guidelines concerning alcohol abstinence and liver transplants triggered a human rights complaint filed earlier this week by a B.C. man who has end-stage liver disease.

Ed Ferre, the provincial operations director at BC Transplant, said previous guidelines requiring patients to abstain from alcohol for six months in order to be eligible for a liver transplant were removed in May 2019.

BC Transplant, which oversees all aspects of organ donation and transplant across B.C., has contacted the patient, David Dennis, and says a transplant assessment is underway.

Ferre apologized “for any upset caused.” 

Dennis, who is Carrier Sekani and Nuu-chah-nulth, alleged the policy had prevented him from getting on the transplant list as he had not abstained from alcohol in the past six months. He alleged the policy was discriminatory against Indigenous people who have disproportionately higher rates of alcohol use disorder due “centuries of racist and harmful colonial policies.”

Dennis, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and the Frank Paul Society had filed the human rights complaint against BC Transplant, the Ministry of Health, and Vancouver Coastal Health on August 11. 

Jason Gratl, the lawyer representing Dennis, said his client was “delighted to learn that the [abstinence] policy is no longer in effect.”

“If that occurred yesterday or it occurred in the spring, that makes no difference to him,” Gratl said.

“The important part to him and to me is that my client is eligible for a liver transplant and that transplants are available in British Columbia on a non-discriminatory basis,” he said, adding he wants to see a copy of the updated policy before dropping the lawsuit.

Debate led to policy change

Dr. Eric Yoshida, a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia and a long-time member of the provincial liver transplant program, says there was almost a year of internal debate among B.C.’s medical community leading to a change in the policy this spring. 

The original policy was created through a consensus of transplant programs across Canada, based on research from the 90s. But new medical evidence shows that an absolute six-month abstinence rule is not supported, he said, which led to B.C. removing its policy. 

The decision to drop the policy means B.C. is leading the country in this area, he said.

“We were the first transplant program to see patients with HIV and we were leaders for many, many years before any other program finally caught up,” Yoshida said.

“This is very similar.”

In some cases, there is still value to alcohol abstinence, Yoshida said, since nearly all patients will improve their liver function by abstaining, but in B.C., there is no strict period of abstinence that patients must adhere to. 

“We really haven’t refused to see anybody because of the six-month rule.”

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Indigenous B.C. man denied place on liver transplant list challenges alcohol abstinence rule

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and an Indigenous man are filing a complaint at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal challenging the legality of a policy that requires people to abstain from alcohol for six months in order to be eligible for a liver transplant.

David Dennis, 44, who is Carrier Sekani and Nuu-chah-nulth, has end-stage liver disease. The Vancouver man says he would qualify as a priority candidate for a liver transplant, if not for BC Transplant’s abstinence policy.

Because Dennis has not abstained from alcohol for the past six months, he says he’s been “kicked off the list entirely.”

Chronic liver disease is the deterioration of the liver. It can be caused by many different things like hepatitis, autoimmune deficiencies, metabolic conditions and alcohol or drug use. End-stage liver disease is the point of deterioration at which a liver transplant is the only effective treatment.  

The groups bringing the challenge wrote that the abstinence policy discriminates against Indigenous people.

They say Indigenous people have disproportionately higher rates of alcohol use disorder due to “centuries of racist and harmful colonial policies implemented at all levels of Canadian government, but especially through the intergenerational traumas of the Indian residential schools on Indigenous families and communities.”

Intergenerational trauma

In an interview, Dennis says he’s been an alcoholic for most of his life. He says both sides of his family have a history of alcohol dependency.

“Both my parents [were] chronic alcoholics who recovered from residential school, ” he said. “My late father Clarence died from alcoholism. My grandfather on my mother’s side died from suicide while intoxicated. My grandmother went missing … she was an alcoholic.”

Dennis, who said he has been sober since mid-May, is holding onto hope he can get a transplant.

“But if I don’t make it, I want the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and Frank Paul Society to carry on and get rid of this lethal form of racism.” 

Policy challenged in Ontario

In general, liver transplant programs in Canada require a period of six months of abstinence from alcohol before considering a patient with liver disease. 

According to a June 2019 scientific paper from the University of British Columbia, researchers in Hepatology Communications, one reason for the abstinence period is that stopping alcohol use can improve liver function to the point where a liver transplant may not be needed. Advocates of the policy say they are also concerned patients could relapse into alcohol consumption after the transplant.

The policy has not been without challenge.

Debra Selkirk, whose husband died of liver failure from acute alcoholic hepatitis in 2010, launched a a constitutional challenge against the policy, arguing it didn’t allow her husband enough time to get sober before requiring a transplant. 

Delilah Saunders, a young Inuk activist, gained support from Amnesty International after she was denied a liver transplant for having a history of alcohol use in 2017.  

In 2018, Ontario began a three-year pilot program to review the policy.

Agency reviewing case

BC Transplant responded with a written statement saying it “appreciates the distress that patients and their loved ones face when needing an organ transplant.”

The agency, which oversees all aspects of organ donation and transplant in B.C. and manages the province’s organ donor registry, said it would be reviewing the case together with the Liver Transplant Team at Vancouver Coastal Health.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, wrote that “the proper response to Indigenous peoples whose lives have been affected by intergenerational trauma and oppressive colonial policies should include empathy and understanding, not another door shut to justice and equality. “

As of July 31, 2019, there are 53 people on the wait list for liver transplants in British Columbia.

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Stevie Wonder Reveals Plans for Kidney Transplant: ‘I’m All Good’

Stevie Wonder Reveals Plans for Kidney Transplant: ‘I’m All Good’ | Entertainment Tonight

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Canada’s 1st face transplant recipient has had many setbacks — but no regrets

When a Montreal medical team pulled off the country’s first face transplant last spring, it was a historic moment for Canadian medicine, but the patient’s recovery remained far from certain. 

Maurice Desjardins’s life since then has been full of setbacks, but he has so far avoided the worst-case scenario — his body’s rejection of the graft. 

As Radio-Canada’s current affairs program Découverte reported last year, Desjardins was disfigured in a 2011 hunting accident. He was left with half of a face, as well as chronic pain and severe damage to the nerves, muscles and bones in his face.

Everything changed last spring, when surgeon Dr. Daniel Borsuk and his team performed the high-risk procedure at Montreal’s Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital. They successfully grafted a donor’s jaw, teeth, nose and cartilage onto Desjardins’s face — all in one piece.

Desjardins, pictured here before his surgery in 2018, was severely injured in a 2011 hunting accident. (Jérôme Voyer-Poirier/Radio-Canada)

“I was in control during the graft, but afterwards, during the recovery time, I was no longer in control of anything,” Borsuk told Découverte recently. He said it’s been a stressful and challenging year for Desjardins. 

Eating is one of many tasks that remain difficult for Desjardins, who still relies on a feeding tube. Anything he can eat has to be ground up first. Since the operation, he’s lost 65 pounds.

Much of his care rests on the shoulders of his wife, Gaétane, who helps administer the 15 or so daily medications, and drives Desjardins back and forth between their home in Notre-Dame-de-la-Sallette and checkups two hours away in Montreal.

When I see Maurice, I am relaxed. It’s when I’m not with him, that’s when I’m stressed.– Dr. Daniel Borsuk

“I’m always afraid of making a mistake. There are so many different types of medication. I have to pay close attention to what I’m doing,” she told Découverte. “It’s really a 24/7 job.”

It all became too much for Gaétane to juggle, so she gave up her job to take care of her husband full-time. That was a financial blow to the couple. 

Borsuk said he didn’t realize there was a lack of financial support for transplant patients. 

“I think that we have a great public [health care] system and I think it works really well, but the problem with some of these transplant patients is most of them don’t live near a transplant centre,” he said. 

Desjardins and his wife say they’re grateful to the family of the donor for their sacrifice. (Charles Dagenais/Radio-Canada)

“They have to leave their homes, get in their car, pay for parking, pay for gas, pay for medication, which aren’t always covered. And so it ends up being a quite expensive year for these patients.”

Special patient-doctor bond

During their shared journey, Dr. Borsuk and his patient have grown close.  

“There have been a lot of ups and downs. A lot of waves,” Desjardins said in a recent interview with Découverte.

Borsuk said that every success and obstacle is felt by both of them. During checkups, it’s normal for them to clasp hands or even hug.

“I am close to my patients, but with him, it’s another level,” said Borsuk. “Maybe it’s a bit too close? But that’s on me.” 

The surgeon admitted that it can be difficult to manage relationships with patients like Desjardins, whose day-to-day well-being is often on his mind. 

Dr. Daniel Borsuk and Desjardins share a hug. After a year of ups and downs since the surgery, the two men have grown close. (Charles Dagenais/Radio-Canada)

“When I see Maurice, I am relaxed,” Borsuk said. “It’s when I’m not with him, that’s when I’m stressed.”

Bout of infections, low morale

The price of his new face is that Desjardins must take powerful immunosuppressants for the rest of his life. The medication is a double-edged sword: while it helps prevent his body from rejecting the transplant, it also leaves him vulnerable to even the slightest infections.

“He caught everything that he could catch,” Gaétane said. Three major infections sent Desjardins to hospital repeatedly over the course of his recovery. He spent a total of three months in hospital.

It all came to a head in March, when he fell ill with an infection of the digestive system known as diverticulitis. A pocket of his intestine became infected, and then ruptured.

He caught everything that he could catch.– Gaétane Desjardins

He underwent a surgery so that doctors could attach a temporary colostomy bag, an external pouch that will collect his body’s waste while his intestine heals. 

The hospitalizations, plus the incessant checkups, have taken a toll on Desjardins and his wife. For a few months, he lost his morale and stopped bothering with his exercises, which are essential for him to regain complete control of his face and his jaw.

“You know, I can’t blame him,” Dr. Borsuk said. “It’s hard to focus on doing your exercises when you have things that are physically hurting you.”

April 2019 was the first time in a year that Desjardins had gone two weeks without an infection.

“I have been happy for two weeks, because I’ve been out of the hospital for two weeks,” he said at the time.

But the break from his exercises means Desjardins can no longer close his mouth as fully as he could before, and his speech is limited. It’s difficult for him to express himself.

When Desjardins speaks, Gaétane will often “translate” for the benefit of other people, because his speech can be difficult to understand. 

Gaétane Desjardins said she had to give up her job, because taking care of her husband is too demanding. (Charles Dagenais/Radio-Canada)

Borsuk said he’s confident that his patient will work hard to regain control of his jaw. 

“I know he’ll get it back,” he said. “It’s like when you have a cast on your wrist: If you don’t move your wrist for a month, it’s going to be stiff.”

Grateful to donor’s family

Dr. Suzon Collette, who is responsible for monitoring Desjardins’s recovery, said what he’s gone through in this past year is typical for a transplant patient.

“There are good times, months where everything is going well, and then there are steps back, defeats, unexpected things,” she said.

Despite the obstacles, Collette said at the end of the day, the patients find a way to make it through.

One thing Desjardins has not struggled with is accepting his new physical identity. The medical team had been afraid that he might be upset or disturbed when he saw the reflection of a stranger in the mirror. 

Now he finds himself handsome, and it’s true. He is.– Gaétane Desjardins

But Desjardins said that wasn’t difficult for him. More than anything, he’s just thankful.

“It’s going very well. I am so grateful to the donor’s family,” he said.

Gaétane said she likes the way her husband looks. She said that before the accident, he never thought much about his face.

“Now, he finds himself handsome, and it’s true. He is,” she said.

Despite all the post-surgery pain and difficulty, Desjardins said he has no regrets about the procedure.

“It was worth it,” he said recently, while sitting on his couch at home, holding hands with his wife. 

Gaétane agreed, smiling at her husband.

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A match is found: Nova Scotia transplant advocate gets 2 new lungs

A Nova Scotia woman has received a double lung transplant just months after she thought the financial burden of the procedure would force her into palliative care.

Natalie Jarvis, 42, successfully had the surgery on Sunday and is now beginning her long recovery in intensive care.

Jarvis has antisynthetase syndrome with interstitial lung disease, a rare autoimmune condition. Her health deteriorated quickly at the end of 2018, and she was told her only chance of survival was to move to Toronto immediately and wait for a match.

In January, Jarvis rejected the life-saving procedure because she didn’t think she could afford to live in the city while she waited.

Lungs are the only organ not transplanted in Halifax, and the current allowance from the provincial government is $ 1,500 per month, which wouldn’t even cover her rent.

Jarvis feared that a move to Toronto would bankrupt her family, as has been the case for other transplant patients across Atlantic Canada.

Jarvis’s respirologist, Dr. Meredith Chiasson, convinced her to change her mind, and Jarvis managed to raise $ 7,000 with the help of friends, family and her employer.

Jarvis isn’t the only patient from Atlantic Canada to choose palliative care instead of a transplant because of money. Chiasson said two other patients this year made that decision and didn’t change their minds.

Natalie Jarvis is shown at the former university residence in Toronto she rents as she waited for her double-lung transplant. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

After Jarvis told her story to CBC News, people from across Canada donated thousands to help her the rest of the way.

She received so much support, she started asking people to donate to other lung transplant patients or the provincial Lung Associations instead.

People who live in the Toronto-area also offered accommodations for lung transplant patients. The Nova Scotia Lung Association is creating a list of those offers for future patients to use.

Provincial reviews underway

After the CBC report, the health minister ordered a review of the funding in Nova Scotia. That review is ongoing.

Prince Edward Island is also reviewing its allowance for lung transplant patients, which is $ 1,000 a month.

New Brunswick’s health minister said he is waiting to see what the other jurisdictions do first before changing their assistance, which is $ 1,500 a month.

Nova Scotia also recently became the first jurisdiction in North America to switch to an opt-out consent donation program.

The law won’t be implemented for at least another year, but when it is, it will be presumed that all adults are open to donation unless they register not to be, or if their family speaks out. Minors will still require the consent of their family to be a donor.

“I think it’s a great idea, I think every province should follow [their] lead,” Jarvis said in an interview with CBC’s Metro Morning before her surgery.

“I couldn’t even explain to you how it’s going to feel to finally hear that I have a match,” she said. “We need to pay it forward. Why not pay it forward by giving someone a chance at a second life?”

Jarvis, meanwhile, was overwhelmed by the support, which she said inspired her to stay strong until her match was found.

“Am I scared? Of course, it’s a surgery,” Jarvis told CBC News in February. “But do I believe that everything is going to turn out OK? Yes, I do, because I believe that I’m strong enough to get through it. I have enough people that are rooting for me.”

It’s expected that Jarvis will have to stay in Toronto for three months after the surgery for her recovery.

Before the operation, she vowed to donate any leftover money from her campaign to other patients as her own way to pay it forward.


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