Woman who couldn’t afford to stay in Vancouver for lung transplant meets with B.C. premier

Click to play video: 'Princeton lung transplant patient meets Premier David Eby'
Princeton lung transplant patient meets Premier David Eby
A Princeton woman in dire need of a double-lung transplant has met with Premier David Eby, advocating for residents outside of the lower mainland in desperate need of care. Christina Derksen-Unrau says she had to take herself off the transplant list after being asked to prove she could afford to relocate to Vancouver for post-surgery care. Jennifer Palma reports. – Apr 12, 2024

A double-lung transplant patient met with B.C. Premier David Eby in Victoria on Thursday to discuss challenges for transplant patients living in rural areas.

Christina Derksen-Unrau of Princeton and BC Rural Health Network’s executive director Paul Adams said patients who live in rural areas are forced to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for mandatory after-surgery care costs when they come to Vancouver to get an operation.

“From the premier today, we heard outstanding support. We had a very positive meeting, he appreciated being informed and has made a promise and commitment to work with us in finding a solution moving forward,” Adams said on Thursday.

“I think this is a huge difference and is a stepping stone to creating equity and access to health care for all residents of British Columbia.”

Earlier this month, Global News reported that Derksen-Unrau could not get her transplant surgery because she couldn’t afford the cost to stay in Vancouver for several months after the operation.

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She said it was important to give Eby a first-hand account of what some transplant patients have to go through.

“The biggest challenge was having enough money to support myself, and my caregiver, for three to six months in Vancouver after transplant, which can be anywhere from $35,000 to $55,000,” she told Global News.

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“My husband is the only income in our household (but) he is also my caregiver so he won’t be able to work.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. woman bumped down transplant list because she cant afford post-transplant care costs'
B.C. woman bumped down transplant list because she cant afford post-transplant care costs

Luckily, a member of the public contacted Derksen-Unrau after seeing her story.

Gary Johal of Penticton said he related to her plight and told her he would pay for her after-surgery care costs.

“I saw her story. It was heartbreaking,” Johal told Global News back in March.

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“My dad also was on the waiting list for six years. He was waiting for a kidney, so I know the stress and pain a family goes through. Every day, it can feel like a year.”

Johal, with his brother, are supporting Derksen-Unrau in honour of their dad.

Other transplant patients, however, are still facing those costs, which spurred Derksen-Unrau to head to Victoria.

“I am taken care of now so I could have just stayed home, but I know there are hundreds of people facing it right now, and hundreds in the future. I don’t want any of them to die because they don’t have the money,” she told Global News.

“The province needs to take care of its residents who live outside of Vancouver.

“It’s a lot more common than people realize. It’s incredibly taxing on hundreds, if not thousands of people, because they need to go to Vancouver.”

Global News has reached out to the premier’s office for comment.

Click to play video: 'B.C. doctor shares concerns about kidney transplant challenges'
B.C. doctor shares concerns about kidney transplant challenges

– With files from Doyle Potenteau


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