What lung condition led to your need for a lung transplant?
In 1995 I quit smoking. Twenty years later I was diagnosed with COPD.
When were you placed on the transplant list?
I was placed on 'the list' in February 2015, after undergoing more than three years of testing. I received my transplant on September 1, 2015.
Did you know you'd spend about three months in Vancouver post-transplant?
Once on 'the list' you can get ‘the call’ anytime. Without knowing when the call would come, how did you plan?
We did nothing as I never thought I would get the call. The cut-off age at the time was 69 years. I was 68 and a half when I got 'the call'. We were very fortunate. My wife Elaine is a cancer survivor, so she knew of the Jean C. Barber Lodge, which is a cancer housing facility for patients needing housing and board. There was a nurse on call twenty-four hours a day should something happen. We were able to become a resident there for the duration. Fortunately, the daily cost was very livable and transportation by the Free Masons was provided by donation. As for our car there was a parking facility near the Lodge that the monthly cost was approximately $100 a month.
Can you speak to some of the hardships you faced ?
I had an easy time post-transplant and I knew I was in good hands. My wife, however, bore the brunt of the hardship.
Elaine, as a caregiver what was the experience like for you?
The first shock is to receive a phone call from your excited husband telling you to get home from work as he had to be in Vancouver right away. The Air Ambulance provided us with a lovely flight to Vancouver General Hospital from Qualicum Airport. Once there, I found myself stranded in a huge hospital. I spent eight long hours in a vacant waiting room watching reruns of old Perry Mason. Finally, Dr. Yee phoned with the successful news. He is a very compassionate, thoughtful physician and was concerned about me finding accommodation and such – as he is with all his patients.
Fortunately, I was able to book accommodation at the Jean C. Barber Lodge. I was told Harry would be in the hospital for three weeks, so I took the opportunity to go home and wrap things up for the next three months. Unexpectedly, ten days later I was told I must return to Vancouver as Harry was to be discharged. I had to find a place for us to stay. Once again, Jean C. Barber saved us. Upon Harry's insistence, he wanted me to bring a vehicle over to Vancouver, but I have never driven in a city larger than Nanaimo. Around mid-November, Harry was well established, and I returned home.
The Physicians and staff at VGH are amazing! All the staff at the Jean C. Barber Lodge are wonderful as well. Being from out of town, it is difficult for the caregiver to make arrangements for accommodation, etc.
How much did it cost you both to stay in Vancouver?
For the two and a half months we were there it cost us approximately $11,000.
What advice would you offer future lung transplant patients and caregivers?