What type of lung condition did you have that led to a transplant?
I had COPD due to smoking. Later I learned my family had a genetic predisposition to the disease. I was diagnosed in my 40s but lived a normal life into my 50s, and an 'almost normal' life into my 60s when I became dependent on oxygen for sleeping. That was in 2013. I was on oxygen full-time by 2014 and on liquid oxygen by 2017, which really restricted my movement.
When were you placed on the transplant list?
In 2016, two friends asked if I was on the transplant list. I was stunned – I thought that because I had created my own lung issue by smoking, I wouldn’t qualify for one. As it turned out, I started down the transplant qualification path in the spring of 2017. In September 2017, I qualified for 'the list' and in June 2018 I had my transplant.
Did you know you would spend three months in Vancouver post-transplant?
Yes, and they also informed me that I would have to pay all expenses . Fortunately, I had a friend living in Richmond who agreed to be my caregiver and let me stay with her. Post-transplant, I met people without any financial resources. They only got financial help because they had no funds whatsoever. Because I was a typical middle-class person, I had savings that I could draw on if necessary. However, I would have been left with little to survive on had it came to that much reduced income. I was incredibly lucky to have a friend to step in.
Once you are on the transplant list you can get 'the call' anytime. Without knowing when 'the call' would come, how did you plan?
I had the “packed bag” all ready. My friend and caregiver in Richmond and my sister were also ready to respond immediately. I was only on the transplant list for nine months, so I was very fortunate.
What hardships did you face?
I really had no hardships being displaced from my home in Coldstream. I did, however, miss my horses while I was away.
What was this experience like for your caregiver?
She basically gave up her freedom and her privacy while I was there. I was very lucky to have her.
How much did it cost you to stay in Vancouver?
I gave my caregiver $500 a month rent for four months. I bought all the food and paid for all the gas and hospital parking. All in all, the cost of being in Vancouver for the three months was close to $9,000.
Can you provide some advice for future transplant patients and caregivers?
In Edmonton, pre-transplant and post-transplant recipients stay in nursing apartments with exercise facilities close by. I know we don't have anything like that in Vancouver, but even if there could be a subsidy for those needing housing that would help immensely. A communal situation might be the ideal setting for new transplant recipients.