Teen says it was 'hard to hear' she must await transplant despite donor match
An Ontario teen waiting to undergo a much-needed stem cell transplant to treat her cancer said it was “hard to hear” that she was being placed on a waiting list amid a hospital bed shortage.
Laura Hillier, 18, of Burlington, Ont. has been battling acute myeloid leukemia for years. In an interview on CTV’s Canada AM on Tuesday, the teen said she was elated to learn that there are multiple matching donors for her potentially life-saving stem cell transplant.
But the celebration quickly turned to worry and fear when she was placed on a waiting list amid a hospital bed shortage. The Hamilton, Ont. hospital where she is being treated has a limited number of transplant beds and spaces in an isolation room.
Now the teen must undergo unnecessary chemotherapy treatments to keep her body in remission.
“You always hear about the wait of finding a donor, and that’s the big hurdle,” Hillier said, later adding that it was “hard to hear” that she would be placed on a waiting list despite having a donor match.
Laura said her wait for surgery is not “benign,” meaning there are severe health consequences that could happen as a result of the unnecessary chemotherapy treatments.
“They said some people relapse in the wait, so they get cancer again, some people die,” Laura said. “And some people get infections, and either succumb to the infections or have permanent damage while waiting.”
Laura’s mother Frances looked to re-locate her daughter’s surgery, but found waiting lists not only across the province, but across Canada.
Treatment in the U.S. would require a minimum $250,000, Frances said, as well as the cost of accommodation while living south of the border. “It’s really hard to imagine finding those funds,” she said.
Devastated by the news that her daughter would need additional chemotherapy, Frances reached out to the Ontario government and Cancer Care Ontario for answers.
In a statement to CTV News, the office for Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said there is growing demand for stem cell transplants.
“It is our expectation that hospitals will prioritize patients based on medical urgency, however those decisions are made by each individual hospital,” Hoskins’ spokesperson Shae Greenfield said.
But Frances Hillier said there needs to be a “short-term solution” for everyone waiting for a stem cell transplant.
“We’re just hoping there will be something more done in an urgent way,” she said.
CTV News reached out to federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose on the matter, but she declined the request for comment.