Well, it’s the first day of spring and, as long time readers know, it is the time of year when we talk about organ donation and the Gift of Life.. If you are tired of listening to me talk about this subject, off you go. We will get back to gardens, greenhouses and septic systems in a few days.
Solid organ transplant patients have been in the news quite a bit lately regarding their position in the vaccination roll out. Without an immune system to fight Covid, transplant patients stand vulnerable. There are many others out there worried about Covid who are otherwise immune compromised but we are talking today about solid organ transplant patients.
In 1999, E was trim, fit and physically active. He was a healthy 43 year old man who played recreational hockey year round and ran the stairs in his office high rise instead of using elevators. No amount of kale or kombucha would have prevented what happened to him. In a matter of days he went from pouring cement and building the stairway at the family house here on the island to laying in a CCU at VGH needing a heart transplant.
What saved him was science. Science and the Canadian medical system. Doctors at three hospitals who, decision after decision, followed the correct path to the discovery of just what it was that was attacking his heart and how to save him. From ordering a heart biopsy, which revealed the rare disease, to the experimental medications prescribed to delay the transplant as long as possible. We walked through those hospital doors and put our faith and his life in their hands. A myriad of tests and experimental treatments and forty two nights in the hospital culminating with a heart transplant and none of it cost us a cent. To this day we are amazed at how lucky we were. At the time there were only 63 known cases of Giant Cell Myocarditis in the world and most were discovered in autopsy. It was a disease which really did just present like the flu.
E was able to hold on to his native heart for nine more months until the time came when he had just days left. On March 22, 2000, he received the gift which has allowed him to live the last twenty-one years without one more night in the hospital. Sure he has been on steroids the whole time, makes sure he doesn’t get over tired and used a lot of hand sanitizer before it was in fashion, but until the pandemic hit, his life had no limits. He has really been able to do anything he wanted to do.
Eleven years ago, to simplify his life, we sold our big family home with the large yard and moved to a townhouse. In no time we were bored beyond belief so asked his cardiologist if it would be okay to move to an off grid cabin, on a gulf island, with no ferry. He encouraged us to go. “What are you going to do?” he said “sit in a rocking chair and wait to die? Go for it.” Nine years later we are still here and E is not only healthier than ever, he is thriving.
Which brings us to what it has been like for a solid organ transplant recipient during the last year. It has been exactly like what it has been for everyone else, but we are just that much more careful. We are fortunate that we have been able to isolate here on the island with minimal interaction. Our island has actually been the safest place we could have been. Our friends and family have been very supportive. Sure we hear well intentioned advice from people, who don’t know what they are talking about, suggesting that instead of a vaccine we should just boost his immune system. Just eat some kale and take some Vitamin D. He takes fourteen pills a day to eliminate his immune system!
He will be in the next phase for vaccination, hopefully, in the next couple of weeks. We will be so relieved because once again we put our faith in the Canadian medical system, science and his doctors. Once vaccinated he may still get the virus, we hope he doesn’t, but if he does, we know it
won’t kill him