Saskatchewan woman’s kidney surgery delayed because of COVID-19

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WATCH: Jessica Bailey waited for years for a kidney transplant only to have it cancelled when the SHA announced it was suspending those surgeries. Now she says she can only wait and hope – Sep 29, 2021

On Sept. 15, the Saskatchewan Health Authority booked Jessica Bailey’s surgery. She suffers from chronic kidney disease and has been waiting for a transplant for years.

About a week later the SHA cancelled it and all organ transplants in the province.

“It was devastating,” Bailey said.

She was overcome by emotion and had to pause before continuing.

“It was like having some hope… that you’re going to get your legs back… and then they’re ripped away from you again.”

Read more: Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman defends actions as COVID-19 surges in province

On Sept. 23, the health authority announced it is so overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients that it was slowing some services and shuttering others to divert staff to ICUs.

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For Bailey, it means more waiting.

“Basically the only thing keeping me alive is dialysis,” she said, “which is painful and (lasts) 10 hours a day.”

She said she first became aware of the problem when she put her arm into a blood pressure machine at a drug store three years ago. It simply told her to see a doctor, and about a year later, she was receiving dialysis.

Bailey told Global News doctors tell her she has less than one per cent kidney function left.

She began hoping she’d find a donor and her best friend’s husband volunteered before even knowing they were a match.

“I love her and have been her friend forever. And I love my wife and there’s no way I wouldn’t,” Jason Anderson said.

Speaking from Vancouver, he said he’s been in regular contact with organ transplant coordinators in both provinces.

“It’s not that I didn’t hear anything, it’s that they didn’t say anything,” he said about the communication around the announcement.

Read more: COVID-19: Saskatoon mother frustrated after son’s appointments, surgery cancelled

The pandemic has already slowed down the process, he said, but now he believes the Saskatchewan coordinator was reassigned.

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He told Global News that means the encrypted thumb drive he sent with the results of his medical tests is sitting on an empty desk.

“I’ve gotten over the initial shock,” he said, when asked about what the announcement means for his friend.

“My wife is still kind of in the denial stage.”

Global News asked the SHA if those who need surgery immediately can get it in other provinces.

They didn’t provide an answer by deadline.

In a press conference Wednesday, Saskatchewan’s health minister, Paul Merriman, said the government will restore services as soon as it is able to do so.

“I know there are people that have been waiting for a long time either for their surgery, or organ donation or their procedure or their consultation,” Merriman said.

“And those decisions are made very seriously to make sure that we are trying to protect those that are coming into the hospitals… versus some of those people that can maybe be delayed for a short amount of time.”

Infectious disease physician Dr. Alex Wong told Global News he only expects the hospitals to get more crowded because cases are still climbing.

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“We’re just like 20, 30 beds away from not being able to survive any longer, and our peak still looks like it’s several weeks away.”

Read more: No organ donations as Saskatchewan nurse awaits transplant

Wong said the provincial government should boost its testing and tracing capabilities and implement tougher guidelines to “get on top of what’s happening in schools, in daycare settings, in long term care (homes) and hospitals because it’s just out of control right now.”

Bailey said all she can do is hang on and wait for the hospitals to clear.

She was very blunt about what the cancelled surgery means for her, saying the longer she goes without a transplant, the more likely she is to die.

And she said it’s not fair she deals with the consequences of other people’s decisions.

“It’s your right if you want to get the vaccine or not, but you’re taking away my right to live,” she said.

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