Dez Young says he has gone up to 16 days without food while staying at the Victoria General Hospital, because no one is available to change his feeding tube. (Courtesy of Arabella Young)

Dez Young says he has gone up to 16 days without food while staying at the Victoria General Hospital, because no one is available to change his feeding tube. (Courtesy of Arabella Young)

Flawed system leaves 19-year-old starving for weeks at Victoria hospital

Dez Young has gone up to 16 days without food, waiting for his feeding tube to be replaced

Before Dez Young was admitted to the Victoria General Hospital (VGH), he had no idea someone could survive without food for 16 days, and he certainly didn’t think someone in the care of a hospital would be forced to.

But, 11 months into his chronic care stay – first at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital, then at VGH – the 19-year-old has become well acquainted with the feeling of starving.

“I was begging for food and I wasn’t getting any,” Young said.

Dez Young, 19, relies on a feeding tube to get his nutrition due to the long term effects of chemo therapy he received as a child.(Courtesy of Arabella Young)

He’s a childhood cancer survivor now dealing with the long term effects of two and a half years of chemotherapy. Last May, Dez started experiencing pain and nausea when he ate. He headed to the hospital thinking they would run some tests and have him out in a couple of weeks.

Instead, Dez was told his stomach could no longer process food on its own and he would now need to rely on a feeding tube inserted in the top of his small intestine to sustain nutrition. The problem is, every few months that tube cracks or falls out and, because Dez requires a radiologist to properly re-insert it and radiologists seem few and far between, he often goes days or weeks without food.

READ ALSO: ‘Belittled and dismissed:’ Former patients of Victoria Psychiatric Emergency Services call for change

His mom, Arabella Young, estimates it’s happened eight or nine times now with 16 days being the longest. During that time, Dez is sustained on nothing but a saline or glucose IV. His already diminished body mass is reduced even further and his stay at the hospital is extended.

“Each time it’s a little harder because I have less energy stores to get me through it,” Dez said. “I’m not a normal nourished person who can just go without food for a few days.”

The last time his tube needed replacing was April 15. That weekend, friends and family gathered outside VGH with signs reading “Feed Our Child” and “Everyone Has a Right to Food”. On Monday night, Arabella said the hospital manager came out and promised to get Dez in. His time slot was bumped back several hours, but he did get his tube replaced.

A small group gathered outside VGH, calling on the hospital to replace Dez Young’s feeding tube, after he had already gone several days without food.(Courtesy of Arabella Young)

READ ALSO: GoFundMe launched for Saanich father of 5 diagnosed with incurable cancer

In order for Dez to be released from the hospital, he needs to build up his strength and be at a stable feed tube rate. But, every time he is waiting for a replacement, he seems to be pushed back behind more “urgent” operations. Dez said he’s extremely appreciative of the doctors and nurses on his floor who have tried their best to get him in, but that ultimately it isn’t in their control.

“While intentions are good,” Dez said, “we need resources and actual actions.”

Why, he questions, did they save his life with chemo if they weren’t ready to support him afterward.

“Survival statistics are great, but in my mind it’s not a success until the long-term outcomes are good too,” he said.

Island Health did not accept an interview request, but in a statement said due to privacy laws and confidentiality policies it cannot discuss or disclose details about individual patients or the care they receive.

“We are always concerned when care received does not meet a patient’s expectations, and we take all care complaints seriously,” the statement read.


Do you have a story tip? Email: jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

VictoriaVictoria General HospitalWest Shore

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The current location of Comox Valley Search and Rescue on Moray Avenue in Courtenay. Google Maps photo
Comox Valley Search and Rescue aiming to purchase a roof for their rescuers

Their goal is to raise between $1.2 and $1.5 million, approximately the purchase price of a facility

A bear is seen walking down Alderwood Place in east Courtenay Sunday (May 9) morning. Video screenshot/Kristie Cave
Video: Bears spotted throughout Comox Valley

Hide food sources, keep garbage away: conservation

Carter Woods was first across the line at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, Saturday in Altstadt, Germany. File photo
Cumberland mountain biker wins World Cup race in Germany

Carter Woods of Cumberland won a World Cup mountain bike race Saturday… Continue reading

The flowers of Darmera peltata (Indian rhubarb) before the leaves emerge. Photo by Leslie Cox
DUCHESS OF DIRT: Plenty of ‘wow’ factor in the garden in spring

Leslie Cox Special to The Record I can’t help it. I like… Continue reading

WestJet in flight. Black Press file photo
Two COVID exposures on WestJet flight into Comox

The BC Centre for Disease Control has posted advisories for two separate… Continue reading

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

The only access to 5th Street bridge heading east (toward Lewis Park) is via Anderton Avenue. Photo by Terry Farrell.
Single lane alternating traffic controls on Courtenay bridge now in effect

Single lane alternating traffic on the 5th Street Bridge is now in… Continue reading

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Most Read