When new lungs are your only chance of survival, most patients and their loved ones would sacrifice almost anything.
For nearly a decade, Garin Josey stood by feeling helpless as he watched his father, Dennis Josey, grow sicker. Diagnosed with a chronic and progressive lung condition called COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), Dennis’ oxygen levels dropped so low, the simplest of daily tasks became difficult.
"It was only when my father was recommended for a lung transplant did father and son have hope of brighter days ahead. Today's it's been six years since Dad got new lungs. We are grateful. And we're both determined to re-pay our good fortune," said Garin.
“A community organizer by profession, my Dad can be a force of nature," continued Garin, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, himself an accomplished film and television industry executive with William F. White International Inc. "Even before his transplant, reliant on an electric scooter rigged with an oxygen tank to get around, Dad used his know-how to start a thriving online lung patient support community."
This past year, Dad was ready for a new project, focused specifically on addressing a significant gap in BC lung post-transplant patient and caregiver financial support,” said Garin.
To qualify for a transplant, each patient and their caregiver must live near Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), where all BC lung transplants are performed, for a minimum three months post-transplant care. While for patients on disability or a very low-income the government provides financial assistance, for most, housing and living costs are an out-of-pocket expense. These costs get expensive fast with Vancouver temporary rental housing averaging $2,500-$5,000 per month. Add in living costs, and additional pre and post-transplant hospital visits, and most patients are looking at a minimum outlay of $20,000-$35,000 in Vancouver post-transplant care costs.
By the time most patients get ‘the call’ that donor lungs are available and surgery is imminent, their health is failing, they no longer work and they’re drawing on financial reserves. For those who live outside Vancouver, the requirement to maintain two homes—their permanent residence and a temporary home near VGH following surgery, is often financially impossible.
That’s why Garin’s father Dennis, together with two lung transplant peers – Bob Mellor and Darcy Murdoch – founded Lung Transplant Housing Support (LT Housing Support). Within its first three months of operations, the initiative has already received 100+ contributions from members of BC's lung transplant community - among them pre and post lung transplant recipients and caregivers who understood the difficulties firsthand.
Son Garin is a major funder having donated almost $12,000 to help launch this initiative in its first year, and in January 2022 joining the BC Lung Foundation in committing to a five-year annual contribution of $15,000 beginning in January 2022.
“In its first six months of operations, LT Housing Support had already provided relief to 14 families in need who had nowhere else to turn.” said Garin.
For patients waiting for new lungs, more transplants mean more hope. It also means more patients from across the province sorting out how to manage steep temporary housing costs while staying in Vancouver, hopefully waiting for a successful life-saving lung transplant procedure.
Last year a record number of 66 British Columbians got a second chance at life thanks to a lung transplant. This year the VGH Lung Transplant Team anticipate another record transplant year.
“To date LT Housing Support has called upon contacts with a personal lung transplant connection to make what contributions they could,” added Garin. “By sharing LT Housing Support’s story publicly, I hope others might consider helping to ensure future lung transplant patients in financial crisis have a place to turn when they need it most.”
About Lung Transplant Housing Support (www.lthousingsupport.ca)
A lung transplant community-led initiative, LT Housing Support provides up to $5,000 emergency financial support to BC lung transplant patients and caregivers in need. Thanks to the administrative help and patient engagement and communications support of its partners — the BC Lung Transplant Program Team and the BC Lung Foundation — 100% of all donations received are re-distributed directly to BC lung transplant patients and caregivers needing emergency financial help.