Tale of two lung transplants

It is the tale of two lung transplants…with the best of health outcomes and not the best of health outcomes (I won’t call it the worst).

Two Algoma area ladies got the call in December of 2015 that they had been added to the lung transplant list, both relocated to the GTA to be within the required distance of the transplant hospital by April 2016, and both had to face transplants through no fault of their own.

According to the article by Jeffrey Ougler from April 9, 2016, Ronna Dawson, then 63, “was diagnosed in 2014 with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive and incurable lung disease with no known cause.”

Lindsay Wonnacott, then 21, was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic genetic disease which affects the lungs and digestive system primarily, when she was 11 months old. Her condition worsened significantly in 2015, and a transplant was required to stop her lungs from deteriorating, from its 17 percent level of ability to function.

The article on Dawson noted that: “the province provides only $650 a month for those in Dawson’s circumstances.” This sent both families into fundraising mode to cover living and travel expenses.

The local and online community rallied to help Dawson and Wonnacott raise lung transplant money. When I last wrote about them in January of 2016, Dawson had raised over $11,000 on line and Wonnacott had over $7,000.

They both received transplants in the spring of 2016, and both felt they’d be given a new lease on life.

Dawson’s lung function is now over 89 percent, though she has had some troubles with her body dealing with the immunosuppressants. She is thrilled that her kids have been able to get back to focusing on their own lives, and she considers every day a gift.

Wonnacott’s recovery was going great with 72 percent lung function at her one year “lung-iversary”. She was able to participate in jujitsu & kickboxing classes, and hiking was her favourite summertime activity. She was back at Algoma University, studying Psychology and Law (which is where I’d met her in 2015 when she took my statistics class).

But at her 18 month assessment in December 2017, Wonnacott’s lung function had dropped sharply, and even high dose steroids and antibiotics didn’t stop the decline. She’s now at 16 percent lung function.

In Jeffrey Ougler’s April 10, 2018 article, Wonnacott had just found out the day before that she was going to be put on the transplant list – again. She was devastated to be back on oxygen and relying on others for so much again, but hopeful.

The family is fundraising to offset costs, and so far $5,300 has been raised on a YouCaring page (https://www.youcaring.com/lindsaywonnacott-1094078).

It just seems wrong to me that anyone has to do any fundraising for health care in Canada. Isn’t that supposed to be our ‘thing?’ free health care? Yet people who live more than 2.5 hours from a transplant hospital have no choice but to relocate, and those costs, while subsidized, are not covered. Then there is the fact that the patient must have a support person with them, who cannot be working. They must both be at the ready, waiting for the beeper to go off to get to the hospital.

Dawson said to me once that there should be a facility (like a Ronald McDonald House) for all of the patients who have to relocate from the north to the GTA for transplants. “So folks don’t have to choose between their health or their home and family,” Dawson said. “As a single mom, I know how incredibly expensive this endeavour (living in Toronto) is and how much you have to sacrifice to stay alive. I never could have managed without my friends and family & fund raising.”

It should be an election issue for those in the north, as breathing is a right for all and not a privilege for the rich or centrally located…we all deserve the best of health outcomes, without going into debt to stay alive.

Both women encourage everyone to register at https://www.beadonor.ca/ to be organ donors. It takes less than two minutes.

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