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Alberta families ask AHS to reconsider funding experimental treatments

Click to play video: 'Province urges caution to sick Albertans leaving province for experimental treatment' Province urges caution to sick Albertans leaving province for experimental treatment
WATCH ABOVE: There was good news for an Alberta fire fighter who’s battling cancer and was forced to leave the province for treatment, it seems to be working. As Tracy Nagai reports, he’s not the only one who’s had to travel far from home to get help – Apr 27, 2016

A Calgary mother is preparing for another long, difficult journey; travelling to France with hopes of easing her son’s pain.

Tristan Tocila suffers from lymphedema – a blockage in the lymphatic system – which prevents fluid from draining and can cause severe swelling.

Tristan has already been to France once, and return again in June to receive a treatment not offered in Canada. The cost is pegged at more than $60,000.

“This kind of surgery – it can be really, really helpful. Not just in our case, but it can be helpful for other people as well,” Tristan’s mother Ala Tocila said. “I just love him so much, and do all I can for him and my family.”

Experimental treatments abroad have proven successful for other Albertans, including firefighter Bo Cooper.

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The 26-year-old’s leukemia recently went back into remission after he received CAR T-Cell therapy from the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland.

Getting into the program no easy endeavor.

READ MORE: Trial therapy from U.S. likely last option for Alberta firefighter battling leukemia

The therapy is extremely expensive, costing between $500,000 and $900,000 and Alberta Health Services doesn’t help cover the cost.

With help of his coworkers at the Fort McMurray Fire Department, the family raised over $292,000 through a gofundme page to help the cause.

In a statement AHS said, “Alberta Health does fund out-of-province procedures if they are insured services in Alberta, but does not cover experimental treatments. We owe it to Albertans to ensure that the medical procedures covered by our health insurance have been proven safe and effective.”

But for those who have witnessed a program’s success, it’s a tough pill to swallow.

“We’ve got to start making this available to people in our country,” Rob Van Hecke, Cooper’s family friend, said.

“There’s so many people that could use a treatment like this, that has such a success rate behind it.”

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