Connie Perkull received a liver transplant earlier this year.
The Hope resident was treated at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) on Sept. 22 and, like most B.C. residents, provincial health care covered her surgery.
Her operation went well.
However, after her surgery, Perkull began to feel the financial pressure that often comes after a long-term illness.
After her transplant she signed a contract with the hospital, committing Perkull to remain in Vancouver for three months, so her recovery could be monitored.
After three weeks of liver rejection and reperfusion problems, she stabilized, and was ready to find, and move into a Vancouver apartment.
She received a grant from the VGH UBC Hospital Foundation, providing her with $600 a month during her Vancouver stay.
“Even though I received the grant, I was in tears. Accommodation was hard to find and expensive, and the grant didn’t cover rent,” said Perkull.
Social workers provided her with a list of places to call, but after many attempts, nothing was available.
When Perkull finally found an apartment the rent was $1,650 a month, and by the time November rolled around she had already spent approximately $3,000 on her credit card, and still hadn’t received any of the grant money.
With a restricted low sodium diet, and Perkull being a diabetic, the costs just kept adding up.
As a registered nurse, Perkull is no stranger to the Canadian health care system. She was quick to point out that the care she received from hospital staff was impressive.
“It was a fantastic experience in the ward. The nurses and doctors were reassuring, compassionate, and very well trained. I know what hospital teamwork looks like, and these nurses were an incredible team, it was a very calming environment,” said Perkull.
As her recovery was going well, Perkull decided to ask her doctors for permission to return to Hope, because living in Vancouver was simply not affordable.
She was focusing on fighting for her life, but the burden of aftercare costs and the lack of financial assistance made her pack her bags and return home.
“A transplant is a miracle, and I’m afraid people would not opt for the surgery because of the expensive aftercare costs, and how hard it is to find accommodation.
“If you don’t have credit cards or come from a rich family, you simply can’t do it. I was lucky enough only to stay in Vancouver for a month, but for those having to stay longer that would cost a lot,” said Perkull.
When asked what she wanted to see changed in regards to aftercare expenses, Perkull said there needs to be some sort of funding available to make this process less financially draining.
She also asked that people donate to BC Transplant, specifically for patients’ aftercare.
The BC Transplant Society is a provincial agency, working in conjunction with the Ministry of Health to help those who have gone through transplant surgery.
“We provide oversight for transplant and organ donations,” said Peggy John, manager of communications for the BC Transplant Society.
BC Transplant also supplies patients (including Perkull) with lifetime financial support for anti-rejection medication, paying for costs that are sometimes $2,000 to $3,000 a month.
“This accommodation situation exists for many patients – more support is needed. There are other organizations like the Happy Liver Society, the Heart and Home Society, and the Kidney Foundation that all provide support. But there is obviously a need, across a variety of spectrums, and people should support existing causes,” said John.