Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nova Scotia family raises money for daughter's lung transplant

Carla and Roger Carver hold a photo of their daughter and son-in-law Jessica, 28, and Shawn Deal. Jessica has cystic fibrosis and needs a double lung transplant. Keith Corcoran photo

I personally know many patients from outside Toronto's metropolitan area who have faced the same financial crisis as this lung transplant family. They have no choice but to move to Toronto because Toronto General Hospital is the only center in Eastern Canada (English speaking) that performs lung transplants.
NEW GERMANY, Nova Scotia - Fundraisers are taking place in aid of a former Lunenburg County woman who needs a double lung transplant.

Jessica Deal (nee Carver) soon heads to a Toronto hospital for a weeklong assessment to determine if she's a suitable candidate for a double lung transplant.

If the assessment is favorable, she'll need to live in the metropolitan area close to the hospital to wait for a donor, a wait that could take more than a year.

While some costs are covered by health insurance, Ms Deal and her husband, Shawn, who live in Clayton Park in the Halifax Regional Municipality, have little choice but to pay out of pocket for living expenses.

'That's the costly part," said Ms Deal's mother, Carla Carver, mentioning that the Toronto apartment rental will run $1,700 a month.

A benefit breakfast recently took place in Pinehurst. Cold plate dinners were made available June 10 and the New Germany Legion is the host location of a dance June 14. A ticket raffle on a quilt is also in the planning stages.

Ms Deal, the second oldest of four children of Carla and Roger Carver, has the multi-organ disease cystic fibrosis and the condition has taken a toll on her lungs.

"It's just gotten worse over the last couple of years," Mr. Carver said, noticing for some time that his 28-year-old daughter coughs "a little more" than she used to.

Symptoms of cystic fibrosis are usually heard, not seen. Difficulty breathing and a constant cough are commonplace as the lungs and digestive system are the main targets of the fatal disease. Cystic fibrosis blocks most of the absorption of nutrients from food and increases respiratory problems in the lungs.

Ms Deal was diagnosed six months after her birth. The disease is not contagious.

Treatment includes consuming digestive enzymes to help with nutrient absorption and following a strict regime that includes physiotherapy and an aerosol mask.

The Carvers say their daughter, a former New Germany Rural High School female athlete of the year, showed no signs of ill health in the past until earlier this year when pneumonia hospitalized her for six weeks.

"It really didn't hold her down at all," said her mom of her daughter's dealings with the disease. "Nobody would have ever known anything was wrong with her."

Then, on May 4, as the Deals returned from a Florida vacation, an ambulance met the couple at Stanfield International Airport to transport a very ill Jessica to the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Center, where she's been ever since.

Ms Carver said there was talk Ms Deal may be released from hospital soon but will need to be on oxygen. But it's an improvement over a respirator, when her outlook wasn't so good. At 5'7" and 103 pounds, Ms Deal is working to get her strength back.

After some coaxing, she eventually agreed to the double lung transplant.

Lung transplants are considered when a cystic fibrosis patient is in the late stages of the disease and common treatment methods aren't improving quality of life.

Mr. and Ms Deal are on leave from their jobs. Ms Deal works for a recruiting firm, while Mr. Deal is an auto mechanic. The couple have been married four years.

The Carvers have one other daughter and two sons. None of them have cystic fibrosis.

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