Mom scrambles for funds before operation

A Cobble Hill wife and mother has fallen through holes in the province’s health safety net, leaving family and friends scrambling to find $25,000 so she can qualify get a life-saving operation.

Tami Walker needs a double lung transplant. The 47-year-old woman is suffering from thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, a chronic condition that involves a build-up of blood clots in her lungs.

She requires a 24-hour intravenous infusion to survive until a transplant, but right now, everything is hanging on meeting the financial qualifications for that.

“Tami and I are hard-working people who have always paid our own way but now the crunch has come,” her husband, Norm, said. “I can’t work because of looking after Tami. She cannot work a bit. And we’re still raising kids.

“The bottom line is she needs the surgery but there’s no avenue we can go to any more.”

Their whole nightmare began three years ago when she started passing out, Norm said.

Trips to Victoria, Vancouver and even Toronto for diagnosis and treatment saw doctors finally realize her lungs were plugged with blood clots, he said, explaining that the crippling expenses of seeking treatment has caused him and his wife to lose their home and go through bankruptcy.

When in February she started collapsing again, Tami was placed on an intravenous line that pumps medication into her lungs constantly.

“They gave her a year on this machine as a temporary measure prior to getting the lung transplants,” he said.

That was where the second problem began.

If Tami is to be approved to go to Vancouver for a transplant, she and Norm must have $25,000 in an account to show they can afford her after-care.

“She has to have a caregiver with her 24/7 when she’s over in Vancouver for between three and six months after the surgery.

“If you are on welfare and you’re broke, they’ll pay for everything. The problem comes if you’re a person that’s got a home, that’s got three kids and you’re trying to survive over here on a payday-to-payday basis because you’re on a pension.”

Norm said he and Tami were stunned when an official suggested they move to Vancouver with their daughter while the two older boys stayed on the Island.

“We’ve already lost our house over it. She needs her family with her. We’ve been going through the channels. But, day before yesterday I got a phone call from the social assistance lady who said: ‘You fall between the cracks.’ The equipment that’s keeping Tami going is starting to fail, too.

“We were hoping this machine would work a lot longer but it’s not. Tami’s starting to go downhill.”

Now, some friends like have started fundraisers.

Greg and Peggy Hunt have set up a trust account at the Island Savings Credit Union. Donations can go to account # 2381960. Another option is to visit Youcaring.com and make a donation at “Help Tami get a Double lung transplant”.

The Walkers also contacted Cowichan Valley MLA Bill Routley for help.

“I ended up in tears here about this situation. I’ve never heard of such a thing,” Routley said.

“So I uncorked in the Legislature on the subject and asked: How can we hold our heads up with this going on? To have a mom with three kids saying, ‘Just let me go?’ And Norm is just devastated that he can’t help her. What person with a family doesn’t feel for that kind of situation?” The first response was speedy, according to Routley’s assistant, Doug Morgan.

“Bill made a passionate speech – he blew the House away – and there were tears and everything. The minute he stepped down, I got a call from a minister’s assistant saying, ‘Doug, send me everything you’ve got. I’m going to look into this personally for you.'”