Saskatchewan patients waiting for life-saving surgeries, clarity from health officials

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Saskatchewan patients waiting for life-saving surgeries, clarity from health officials
WATCH: Some people waiting on Saskatchewan’s transplant list may now have a glimmer of hope after COVID-19 forced the cancellations of their surgeries more than two weeks ago. But as Nathaniel Dove reports, they are now finding themselves in limbo waiting for a call that may never come – Oct 6, 2021

Jessica Bailey’s kidney has less than one per cent function left. Krystal Graham, meanwhile, is facing end-stage liver failure.

They both desperately need organ transplants and can’t get them.

On Sept. 23, Saskatchewan Health Authority leaders announced the health provider was slowing down some services and cancelling others because hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the SHA said organ transplants can be considered, in rare instances, on a case-by-case basis depending on factors like the availability of beds.

Case counts and hospitalizations have continued to rise since then, breaking records several days in a row. But Bailey and Graham are both hoping they’ll get their surgeries.

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Bailey said an organ transplant coordinator called her last week to say she might still get a transplant. She was waiting for a follow-up call on Tuesday, but said it never came.

“I don’t know if they’re dodging or stalling or they just don’t know,” she said, “but even then, just say that.”

She said she’s a little more hopeful than when she first heard the news, “but then I’m just as apprehensive that it’s going to get torn away from me again.

“That can be just as devastating.”

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Graham, speaking in White City, Sask., said her coordinator told her she may get her surgery in Edmonton and that she should keep a bag packed.

“That was a little bit of some encouraging news, but that was last week<‘ she said. “(The coordinator) said things can change really on a day-to-day basis.”

Alberta hospitals are also overloaded with COVID-19 patients, though the province hasn’t announced it is suspending transplants.

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“The longer you wait, unfortunately, the higher your mortality rate goes up,” she said.

The liver transplant, if it goes ahead, will be her second. The 37-year-old licensed practical nurse first needed the operation in 2008.

But six years later she was again diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, the same liver-damaging disease as earlier.

Now she’s on a variety of medications and reoccurring procedures. She visits the hospital three times a week to have part of her blood replaced.

She told Global News all of it amounted to band-aid solutions and that she needs a new liver.

They both said they want their lives back.

But they both don’t know if they’ll get it.

If the fourth wave is flooding hospitals with the unvaccinated, both are worried their hopes will get washed away.

Graham said she is frustrated knowing people who chose not to get their shots are in the hospital beds.

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“I need the surgery to keep on living,” Graham said.

“Come and live in my shoes for a weekend and potentially not having an ICU bed when it does come time for transplant, just like it’s sad and it’s frustrating because that could be prevented.”

“If you’re going to take up a hospital bed and ICU from a child or somebody who’s been dying for years or whatever,” Bailey said, referring to the overflow COVID patients in the Jim Pattinson Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon, “you better have a damn good reason.”

“COVID is killing people and vaccines are not. It’s quite simple to me.”

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