LOGAN LAKE - In a matter of three weeks, a middle-aged woman from Logan Lake visited a doctor, found out she had an autoimmune disease, was told she needed a liver and could get one — for a price.
Tammy Valin was told she could be put on the waitlist but first needed to prove she could take care of herself after the transplant with a care plan which would cost from $15,000 to $20,000 because she will have to live in Vancouver where her operation would be performed.
Valin, 45, is a cook at a local pub where she is paid mininum wage and doesn’t have that kind of money, according to her friend Tracy Robinson. She has taken a medical leave from her job and can’t apply for social assistance until her 15-week medical employment insurance runs out.
“That’s next to no money. You can’t wait for 15 weeks and hope she survives until then either,” Robinson says. “Although it doesn’t need to be written in stone they do need to have a plan of care approved. You need to know where you’re maybe going to go and stay afterwards. You need to know how much money you’re going to have."
Without the plan, Robinson was told by the B.C. Transplant Centre her friend can’t be put on the waitlist because the plan is a legal requirement to receive an organ.
“They told me she would have to contact the patient care quality review board to make a complaint herself. She’s pretty darn sick. In my mind that is tiering our system," Robinson says. "I asked the lady point blank 'so unless you have the money there to show that you have a plan of care afterwards or you're on social assistance, you don't get the transplant?' She said 'no sadly not.'"
“This is not right. You’re supposed to be a Canadian who gets treated like every other god-damn Canadian."
Robinson says it was also suggested she speak to the local MLA.
Many people in Logan Lake are helping her navigate the medical system and come up with the necessary funds by using a GoFundMe account.
Valin continues to try and seek medical attention, but to add insult to injury, there is no family doctor nor emergency services in Logan Lake. She’s travelling to Merritt or Kamloops to receive medical attention, Robinson says.
B.C. Transplant communication director Peggy John confirms they have no special funding set aside to help a patient pay for the after care plan.
She says if the patient is not covered at the ministerial level, they can get help through non-profit groups or with community fundraisers.
“The transplant programs along with the staff work with the patients to provide them help and guidance along the way,” she says. “I know that on our website there is a link for patients to some resources if they aren’t already aware of that."
John says the after care plan doesn’t have to be completely finalized when it’s turned it, but says a patient depending on what organ they receive needs to have an idea of how they can live close to a care centre after the operation. Most of the care centres are in the Lower Mainland, she says.
“You are followed up very closely. It really varies patient to patient and organ group. You need to be close by," she says. "They’re giving you significant amounts of anti-rejection medication. You need to be able to have the support to ensure that you will be well. When you look at the scarcity of organs available for transplant you want to make sure you give this gift of life the best possible chance to succeed."
According to stats from B.C. Transplant, over 500 patients are awaiting an organ transplant in the province.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at email@example.com, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-2724.