P.E.I. woman has double lung transplant in Ont.

A P.E.I. woman who spurred a debate about funding for Islanders who must leave the Maritimes for transplant surgery has had a successful double lung transplant.

Debate over patient's living expenses in Toronto led to new funding

A P.E.I. woman who spurred a debate about funding for Islanders who must leave the Maritimes for transplant surgery has had a successful double lung transplant.

Melissa MacPhail, shown here in November 2009 with her son, Keegan, will have to remain in a Toronto hospital for another two weeks. ((CBC))

Melissa MacPhail of Stratford, P.E.I., received a new set of lungs last Friday in Toronto.

MacPhail, who has an incurable disease called scleroderma that hardened her lungs, had been on an oxygen tank for the last two years. She was worried she wouldn't be around much longer to take care of her five-year-old son, Keegan.

MacPhail's sister Stacey was visiting when they got the call Thursday telling them doctors had found suitable lungs for MacPhail.

"Off to the hospital we went," Stacey MacPhail said. "We were sitting there all night. We didn't know until the last second, but when that gurney came around the corner, she was like, 'You better not be turning me around'."

She said everything went well during the six-hour procedure.

"She's starting her physio process," said Stacey MacPhail. "She can't wait to get out on the bicycle with Keegan. She said, 'Stacey, be prepared to do a lot of walking'."

MacPhail still has at least another two weeks in the hospital, and doctors say she must stay in Toronto another three months. She moved to Toronto in January to await the procedure.

The wait included three false alarms during which she travelled to the hospital but was told the available lungs were not suitable for her.

Toronto stay a financial burden

MacPhail has said publicly that her living expenses in Toronto were about $2,000 a month and that she was struggling to cover the costs.

In May, Premier Robert Ghiz’s government announced that Islanders would immediately be eligible for $1,000 a month to cover room and board if they must leave the Maritimes for transplant surgery.

Health Minister Carolyn Bertram also said that eligible patients would have access to $1,500 every six months to travel back to P.E.I.

The policy covers people who need to leave the province for heart and lung transplants as well as anyone needing liver or non-beta-cell pancreas transplant surgery.