“ It’s pretty terrifying ”: COVID-19 threatens N.S. woman lung transplant

`` It's pretty terrifying '': COVID-19 threatens N.S. woman lung transplant

Nova Scotia woman in need of double lung transplant says she’s trying to stay positive because COVID-19 threatens her ability to undergo life-saving surgery.

Karen Spencer, who lives in North Kentville, was scheduled to travel to Toronto in April for an assessment to determine when she will be officially listed on the transplant list.

The 54-year-old man suffers from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and is dependent on oxygen. A year ago, she caught a superbug and learned that a transplant would be her only option.

“It’s pretty terrifying, I’m scared enough,” said Spencer of the new coronavirus. “I’m afraid of catching it and this time it’s going to kill me.”

Spencer learned on Tuesday that his trip to the Toronto General Hospital was over. The hospital, which handles almost all lung transplants for patients in the Atlantic region, has suspended all lung transplant activities, except for patients who are deteriorating rapidly.

But Spencer’s specialists have found a way to move his case forward. She said they plan to have virtual meetings and talk to her on the phone or via video chat to do her assessment. She will also have to undergo surgery at QEII Hospital in Halifax in the coming weeks.

She said the pandemic was wreaking havoc on her mental health.

Spencer says specialists at Toronto General Hospital will do a virtual assessment to determine when it should be added to the transplant list. (Dave Laughlin / CBC)

“Fortunately, I have my family who keep me in a good mood and friends too,” she said. “There are times when I don’t have a good mind. I think of” What if? “and I have to learn not to think that way.”

The virus creates a new set of obstacles in an already difficult situation.

Her hospital workouts have stopped and she can only go out to walk in specific weather conditions.

A benefit show supposed to help cover his expenses has been canceled. Her family created a GoFundMe campaign to see if it could help.

“But with the economy right now, I don’t expect anyone to donate right now … and I just pray to God that something will go well by then.”

Not only that, if Spencer gets approval to go to Toronto, she will have to fly and she is worried about potential exposure to COVID-19.

Karen Spencer’s niece, Natasha Vaughan, and her husband, Jerry, both have a history of breathing problems and are considered to be at high risk. (Submitted by Natasha Vaughan)

It’s a trying time for Spencer’s family, many of whom are at high risk for respiratory problems.

One of her nieces is suffering from cystic fibrosis. Another niece, Natasha Vaughan, has scars on her lungs from blood clots.

Each branch of the family now isolates at home, cut off from each other.

Vaughan hopes people realize that families like theirs are the ones that medical experts refer to when they tell everyone to stay home.

“Her life is in balance right now”

She said that the sooner people listened, the sooner her aunt could go to Toronto and wait for her transplant.

“Basically, her life is in balance right now because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Vaughan.

Vaughan also has a message for those who practice social distancing.

“We cannot thank you enough,” she said. “You potentially save our lives. My sister’s life. My aunt’s life.”


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