Cowichan Valley community stepping up for Walker

The BC Pulmonary Hypertension Society’s Vancouver Island Support Group is stepping up to help Tami and Norm Walker of Cobble Hill as they try to raise $25,000 to allow her to qualify for the double lung transplant she desperately needs.

The Society’s Margaret Lehmannn said that the group’s head office is actually located at Lehmann’s home in Duncan.

The Society has a Vancouver Island Support Group because there are a lot of patients and caregivers that have banded together to help and support each other.

"We have all chatted and we are going to have a fundraising bottle drive for Tami and Norm Walker," she said.

The drive is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 1. It will be at Java World on the Trans-Canada Highway. It will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. "If people cannot get their bottles to us, they can contact me by email [marg@bcphs.org] or telephone [250-597-7992] and we can arrange for pickup."

Lehmann is also going to the Return It depot on Norcross Road on Saturday and setting up an account there as well so anybody who takes their bottles there can also tell them at the till that they choose to have the money from their bottles go towards that fundraising account.

Lehmann is concerned about Tami Walker but has not actually met her yet.

"I have sent out an email to the family to let them know we’re doing this.

Everything has happened so fast in Tami’s life that she hasn’t had a chance to attend the support group meetings," she said.

"But some of the members of the support group have spoken to her and her husband via email."

The members all know about having to find a big chunk of cash to maintain both patient and caregiver in Vancouver after the lung operation.

"It’s very stressful," Lehmann said. "Not only do you have your own health issues to deal with on this. Now you have to deal with all the pressure of having to come up with all this money financially. And people just don’t have $25,000," she said.

"It’s that or you lay down and, you know, basically waste away until you pass away."

Lehmann is keenly interested in spreading awareness of pulmonary hypertension.

"My girlfriend, Liz McCall, had this disease diagnosed 14 years ago and there wasn’t any support available in the province of B.C., maybe not even in Canada. There was one telephone number that they didn’t even bother to answer."

Her friend bravely took up the challenge.

"When she was diagnosed, the fear of the diagnosis was extreme so she just decided it was too much to bear. She was a nurse but she couldn’t work; she took it upon herself to start the society, with three of us sitting around a coffee table. She got charitable status. She was instrumental, too, in sitting on a board with pharmaceutical companies to get that society going with support and information available to people."

November is pulmonary hypertension awareness month, too, so look at www.bcphs.org to find information.

"With most people, it takes up to three years to get a diagnosis and of course by that time their condition has quite often deteriorated substantially so that a lot of the options for giving them a better quality of life have passed by. So it’s still a work in progress," Lehmann said.

On the fundraising front, Peggy Hunt, a close friend of the Walkers, reported that the Duncan Lions Club is also ready to add their efforts to help the family once they’ve had a chance to discuss it.

Ron Peck of the Lions said he would take the subject to the club’s next meeting.

"We will definitely be helping them out, but as to how much and what the best way has not been determined yet," he said.

Peck said his group might look at joining forces on the bottle drive.

"I’m on the allocations committee that looks into how we can best help out in the community," he said.

Hunt also shared that some local businesses are helping.

"Curves has said they will and the casino is donating all their bottles and cans," she said.

"But the government has still not said to Norm and Tami, ‘We will take care of you,’" she said.

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