Saskatchewan

Sask. resident mulls moving out-of-province for faster kidney transplant

Eden Janzen says she’s considering leaving Saskatchewan as her hopes of a kidney transplant get more distant.

Eden Janzen, 25, has been working to get on transplant waitlist for several years

Regina's Eden Janzen says she's considering leaving the province to get a transplant faster. (Submitted by Eden Janzen)

Warning: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing

Eden Janzen's "dial-a-versary" is coming up in July. That's what the 25-year-old is calling the day that will mark five years of her getting dialysis.

The Regina resident has been trying to make light of the situation, but Janzen says she's losing hope as years go by without a new kidney.

Now she's considering leaving Saskatchewan altogether. 

"I feel like it might not be possible here," she told CBC News on Wednesday.

Janzen was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 2016. She started doing the medical work-up for a transplant in late 2019, but faced disruptions due to physical ailments and delays caused by the pandemic.

To get on the transplant waitlist, she needs surgery to get her parathyroid removed, which she says she's been waiting for since 2020.

"Basically it's just taking all the calcium and phosphorus out of my body, under my bones," she said.

There is a backlog of about 35,000 surgeries that built up during the pandemic, according to Health Minister Paul Merriman.

Janzen says if she's able to get the surgery done by the summer, along with all the necessary tests, it'll still take her anywhere from a year-and-a-half to two years to get on the kidney list, then several more years to actually get the transplant. 

Eden Janzen has been on dialysis for more than four years. (Submitted by Eden Janzen)

Eyeing Alberta

Janzen said a friend who was on dialysis and on the transplant list in Saskatchewan for about eight years moved to Alberta about a year ago, and was able to get a kidney transplant after six months. 

"If you can go from eight years on a list here to six months somewhere else, that's life-changing. It's worth it," Janzen said.

Janzen said she's also looking at British Columbia and is currently discussing options with her doctor. 

'There's really no relief in sight'

Saskatoon resident Darren Penner is also among the thousands of Saskatchewan residents waiting for surgery. 

He has been waiting for a Grade 4 hemorrhoids removal surgery since the start of the pandemic.

The 34-year-old had to get a colonoscopy first, which was delayed in June 2020 for almost a year.

Now he has no idea when he'll be able to get the hemorrhoidectomy. He said the surgery has been postponed indefinitely and that he has not been given an estimated date for the procedure.

It has taken a large toll. 

"It's affected a lot of my day-to-day life," Penner said in an interview with CBC News on Wednesday.

"Even an extended grocery shopping trip can end up in some significant discomfort and health management and pain issues throughout the rest of the day. And sometimes these issues can last up to several days or possibly an entire week."

Penner said he also bleeds during bowel movements.

"There's really no relief in sight," he said.

Slashing surgical backlog won't 'be done overnight,' minister says 

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Merriman said the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has completed 90 per cent of surgeries that were rescheduled from mid-November to March 1, though tens of thousands more are still backlogged.

The province released a plan in December 2021, saying it had set a target of performing an additional 7,000 surgeries in 2022-23 over pre-pandemic levels, 6,000 in 2023-2024 and 5,000 the following year. 

The goal is to achieve a three-month wait time by 2030, the government said at the time. 

A radiology unit in Regina's Pasqua Hospital, which opened in February, will allow for 1,000 more surgeries a year, Merriman said on Tuesday.

"This is all steps in the right direction to be able to address our surgical backlog," Merriman said.

"And this isn't going to be done overnight. This is going to take a couple of years to be able to do that."

Health Minister Paul Merriman says addressing the surgical backlog will take 'a couple of years.' (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Merriman said the hope is to get the wait time down to three months even before the decade is up.

"We'd like to be able to do it in the next five years," Merriman said, adding that this will depend on a number of factors including what happens in the future with COVID and postoperative care capacity. 

Merriman hinted there will be funding for surgery in the provincial budget, which will be unveiled March 23.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yasmine Ghania is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan, currently based in Saskatoon.

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