Local author and Canadian Antiques Roadshow alumnus Tony Duke had been struggling with health issues over the last year so much so that his doctor referred him for a lung transplant over the summer.
“It takes three to six months to work your way through the pre-transplant assessment process before you get onto the transplant list,” explained Tony’s wife, Beth Campbell Duke. “It seems odd, but when you’re so sick they have to know you’re otherwise healthy and can withstand the transplant procedure and the anti-rejection drugs you’ll have to take for the rest of your life.”
BC Transplant is the organization tasked with co-ordinating transplants in the province. Many people remember a time when transplants were not that common. But today in B.C., transplants are being performed in three hospitals in Vancouver on a regular basis. Long-term survival for post-transplant patients is improving and there are currently over 4,000 patients living with transplants in B.C. – almost 700 of whom live on Vancouver Island.
These medical advancements have created a problem: The number of donor organs is not keeping up with the demand. As of early-November, 544 people in B.C. are waiting for organ donations (50 of these people live on the Island). The vast majority of those waiting are in need of kidneys, which can be donated by living donors.
After five months of medical assessment, Tony is hoping to be put onto the transplant list by Christmas. That’s when the waiting begins.
“There’s no way to predict how long you will be on the transplant list before you get the call for surgery,” said Beth. “Donors are matched by blood type, physical build and by need so the priority of the list is always changing. The medical team in Vancouver is always monitoring people on the list and making decisions about suitability.
“Our job is to make sure we’re prepared to be in Vancouver in a matter of hours after we get the call and then to live close to the hospital for about four months for the follow-up care.”
While all of the medical-related expenses of a transplant are covered, the extra living expenses and the decrease in income aren’t covered, so patients and their families have to prepare for the four months of increased financial need.
“We’ve had great support from family and friends, and they’ve encouraged us to put up a GoFundMe page,” said Beth. “We’ve added the link to our website so people can donate money, register for the donor list and follow Tony’s journey on the blog.
“I’m also getting involved in local events put on by BC Transplant so that I can meet other people in the transplant community. We’re working to minimize our expenses, so any extra money we raise will go to help others in the Comox Valley in the same boat. We’re also sharing helpful information and links that we hope can help the growing number of people joining the transplant community.”
Register your decision regarding organ donation and donate to Tony’s lung transplant fund on his website at TransplantRogues.com
Donations are also accepted on his crowdfunding page, Support Tony’s Transplant Journey by donating via GoFundMe.com/tonyduke