Fundraiser to help double transplant patient from Kaslo area

·4 min read

A couple from Meadow Creek north of Kaslo is reaching out to their friends and neighbours for support in receiving life-saving surgery.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up for Rachel Dugdale and Daniel Fitzgibbon to help pay expenses when Daniel (known as ‘Fritz’ to his friends) goes for a double lung transplant.

“We just don’t have the funds for me not to be working, and to be living in Vancouver,” says Rachel. “The Ministry of Health will help to a certain degree, but we can’t pay for two houses.”

Fitzgibbon’s trouble started with a blood clot in his lungs in 2016. It left him unable to work when the clot spurred an advanced case of cardio-pulmonary obstructive disorder, then emphysema. Large nodes that have developing on his lungs have made the situation even worse. It’s left him breathless and unable to do most normal things around the farm.

“At this point the damage is done, there isn’t the littlest thing I can do,” he says. “I can run around on the lawnmower a bit, but after an hour or so, getting back into the house, I have to get right to the oxygen tank.”

The couple got great news in mid-May, when doctors in Vancouver decided Fritz would be a good candidate for a double lung transplant. They’re now awaiting word of a donor organ to arrive in Vancouver. When that happens, things will move quickly.

“We’re ecstatic. It’s both exciting and scary too,” says Fritz. “it’s a major procedure and it has inherent risks.”

“And the transplant surgeons, when you meet them, they give you the worst possible scenarios,” adds Rachel. “So that you’re prepared for it. It’s good news and it’s potentially one of those scary situations.”

But the opportunity for a second shot at living comes at a heavy personal price. Not only does it mean at least three to six months of recovery after surgery, but the couple has to move down to Vancouver during that time to stay close to advanced medical care. Rachel has to provide 24/7 nursing care for her partner in that time too, and few of her expenses are covered.

They say it’s been frustrating getting information on where they’ll be able to stay or what services they’ll be able to access in Vancouver.

“We don’t know what they’re setting up. We don’t have access to the information or anyone there, so we’re not entirely certain what they’ll do for us, or what I’m expected to do… and I don’t think even they know,” says Rachel. “It’s tough relying on the government.”

Rachel, a farmer who grows vegetables and provides a weekly box of fresh produce to about 30 subscribers, is going to be unable to run her business while she’s away. But she says her customers have been amazingly supportive.

“I sent out an email earlier this year that said, ‘I’m starting a garden, but I may have to leave in June,’” she recalls. “Almost every one of them sent the full payment anyway and said ‘here’s our money, we’ll take as many vegetables as you can supply.’”

So far, $8,930 has been raised of the $50,000 goal in just a few days. The couple says they’re deeply grateful for the support they’re receiving.

“A lot of the names of the donors I recognize,” says Rachel. “And I think I know they struggle too. It’s really hard to accept money from people I know are in exactly the same boat I’m in. But I don’t’ know what else to do. Here we are.”

Right now it’s a waiting game – the double lung transplant could take place anytime in the next few months. If you would like to support the couple, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-fritz-his-number-has-been-called.

The couple say if you can’t help them directly, they would appreciate people registering to be an organ donor. It’s easy to do online.

“There’s only one thing we can do to pay this back, and that’s to spread the word about the transplant donor registry,” says Fritz. “It’s such a simple thing in British Columbia, and has a very high donor level, but for a guy like me with a rare blood type, that could be quite a wait.

“So please register.”

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice