N.B. woman must move to Toronto for life-saving lung transplant. She can’t afford to go

Right before Yvette Taylor’s husband died a year and a half ago, she made a vow to him — one that’s proving costly to fulfil.

The 67-year-old New Brunswick woman promised she would get a life-saving procedure and keep strong.

“I made a promise to my husband that I would get a double lung transplant on his dying bed. And I’m hoping to keep that promise,” she said from her home in Riverview, N.B.

Taylor has sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that has severely impacted her lung capacity.

“It affects everything in my life. It affects my walking. I can’t do a lot of things by myself, which is the big deal for me because I’m very independent,” she said.

Her condition has significantly worsened since her husband’s death, and now she’s looking to relocate to Toronto to get her name on the list for a double lung transplant.

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Yvette Taylor has sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that has severely impacted her lung capacity.

Suzanne Lapointe/Global News

While the surgery is covered by New Brunswick’s Medicare, the program only partially subsidizes the cost of lodging, which will be significant in Toronto.

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Melanie Langille, the president and CEO of NB Lung, explained it’s commonplace for patients in the province to relocate when they’re waiting for transplant surgery.

“You need to be very close to where the lungs are available and where the surgeons are available to do that sort of work,” Langille said.

“The closest lung transplant facilities to us in New Brunswick are either Montreal or Toronto.”

Taylor lives on a pension and doesn’t have private insurance, which means covering some of the cost of rent, as well as the entire cost to hire someone to help care for her, is challenging.

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Her daughter, Julie Laforge, has organized a GoFundMe campaign to help cover these costs, which she estimates will be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

“Unfortunately, if we can’t come up with money to help her get there, then she doesn’t get to go, you know?” Laforge said.

“And then we just watch and it’s already a struggle. So I don’t want that to happen.”

‘An awful lot of support that is needed’

NB Lung said Taylor’s financial situation isn’t rare, and that’s what’s so concerning.

Langille said the organization has been trying to help patients who are navigating the difficult circumstances.

“We have a lung transplant support program where we have worked with condo owners, in close proximity to those hospitals,” she said.

“We have furnished condos, negotiated rental rates, so that people are able to be really close to the hospital while they’re waiting for those lungs to become available.”

Langille added that NB Lung has been continually advocating for increased support for patients who need to go out of province “for this type of life-saving surgery.”

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While there are different programs NB Lung can help people navigate through for some financial assistance, “there’s an awful lot of support that is needed,” she said.

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“We have a small bursary program where we provide $500 to patients that are newly listed for a lung transplant to help cover some of those out-of-pocket costs. We know it’s not a lot but it’s what we can do at this time,” she said.

“And we can we continue to advocate for more coverage of these out-of-pocket costs through Medicare.

Lung NSPEI, which covers the other two Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, said they too hear from patients who need financial support.

Lung NSPEI spokesperson Michelle Donaldson said they received 20 requests for assistance over the past year.

“It’s important to acknowledge the expertise of transplant teams across Canada, including those in Toronto, who are adept at providing exceptional care to individuals undergoing lung transplant procedures,” Donaldson wrote in an e-mail to Global News.

“While the process may be daunting, we remain committed to supporting individuals in their pursuit of improved respiratory health.”

Global News has reached out to New Brunswick’s Department of Health for comment.

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