Saskatoon lady’s kidney transplant put in limbo amid COVID-19 surge

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“I had something to look forward to. Now I don’t have anything to look forward to.”

Author of the article:

Zak Vescera

Publishing date:

Sep 30, 202137 minutes ago3 minute read Join the conversation Saskatoon resident Jessica Bailey, who has been waiting years for a kidney transplant from a live donor, sits for a photo at her home on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. Saskatoon resident Jessica Bailey, who has been waiting years for a kidney transplant from a live donor, sits for a photo at her home on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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Jessica Bailey expected a phone call last week that would have changed her life.

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Instead, the Saskatoon woman is in the dark about when she’ll get a life-saving kidney donation as the fourth wave of COVID-19 hammers Saskatchewan’s health system.

“I had something to look forward to. Now I don’t have anything to look forward to,” Bailey said. “You start making a list of things you’re going to do when you get your life back.”

The stage was set for Bailey to receive a kidney from longtime friend Jason Anderson, who lives in Vancouver. After months of tests confirming his suitability as a donor, Bailey was expecting a call to finally set a surgery date.

Then Saskatchewan suspended organ donations and cancelled elective surgeries so it could divert staff to treat growing numbers of COVID-19 patients. Bailey hasn’t received answers about what that means for her live kidney transplant. The Saskatchewan Health Authority has not yet responded to a question sent Wednesday morning about whether such procedures continue.

“I just keep kind of getting deflected and dodged for answers in a roundabout way … It’s really frustrating as someone who just got their transplant ripped out from underneath them,” she said.

Bailey was hoping for a call last week to set a date for her kidney transplant. Bailey was hoping for a call last week to set a date for her kidney transplant. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Anderson remembers volunteering as soon as he knew Bailey needed a kidney donor. He and his wife consider her one of their dearest friends.

“I told her right away that I was going to be the one that was going to donate it to her,” Anderson said. “I already knew. It wasn’t even a question at that point. It was a matter of when.”

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By “one in a million odds,” Anderson said, he and Bailey had compatible blood types. They started a months-long process of preparation. At one point, Anderson sent eight vials of his blood to Saskatchewan for testing — but they ended up in the wrong place. He sent eight more.

The latest hurdle was getting an image of his kidney to a surgeon in Saskatchewan, which involved sending an encrypted USB drive over the Rockies. Then Anderson got a phone call from his Saskatchewan coordinator.

“She was actually in tears, saying they had closed down the department because of COVID and that she was being placed in ICU due to COVID, and that the USB was on her desk waiting for the surgeon to look at. That was the last I heard,” Anderson said.

His hope now is that he can send his kidney to Saskatchewan or that Bailey can come to B.C. for the procedure.

“It’s mentally draining to watch one of your best friends suffer needlessly when this could have been expedited,” Anderson said.

The SHA says the equivalent of 500 full-time health-care employees are being diverted to meet surge needs in the province’s hospitals for COVID-19 patients.

Bailey said she’s in pain daily from the dialysis treatments keeping her alive. A surgery date would at least give her light at the end of the tunnel.

“It seems to me it shouldn’t take long when you’ve pretty much got all the ducks in the row,” she said.

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