Sky View Charity Suites
In our business, we get to meet a wide range of interesting people we call our tenants - doctors, business people, new families coming to Canada. However, there is one tenant, Tina Proulx, who's warm heart and determination has opened our eyes to a serious problem facing patients coming to Toronto for extended treatment.
Tina was diagnosed with Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension, or (CTEPH). CTEPH is a rare disease caused by blood clots and their remaining scar tissue, which creates high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs and forces the right side of the heart to work much harder than the left. The eventual outcome is right-sided heart failure. Even with treatment and caught early on, CTEPH is life threatening and presents a high mortality rate. There are many treatment centres across the country that are equipped to treat CTEPH, but in Tina’s case, a double lung transplant was required at the Toronto General Hospital.
When relocating to a major city like Toronto for a double lung transplant, Proulx commented that there were specific parameters that needed to be met in order to qualify for the program. “We were told that we needed to live within a 2 hour radius of Toronto General, Hospital taking into account traffic. In fact, we were encouraged to move right across the street if possible.” In Toronto specifically, the areas surrounding the hospitals are amongst the most expensive areas of the city, an option not viable for most needing this type of treatment. This kind of financial stress can turn a family’s world upside down.
Tina and her husband Joel decided to make the move and had to take leaves of absence from work – they now found themselves living in one of the most expensive cities in the country without any income.
But thanks to the money raising efforts supported by family, friends and strangers, they were able to make it through. “Our support was tremendous, and I definitely would not have been able to survive without it,” said Proulx. “Should we have not been lucky enough to have that kind of support, the cost would have been overwhelming. They say the average cost for a transplant patient in that situation is around $10,000, but I can assure you that the cost is much greater than that.” Tina received her double lung transplant in December 2015 and has since made a full recovery, thanks to the boundless generosity of her hometown community, as well as friends and family. For many others however, the support system is just not there, and the financial barrier to accessing proper treatment often costs them their battle with their illness, and ultimately, their life.
The Ontario Government offers a program called the Transplant Patient Expense Reimbursement Program (TPER) which operates under the Trillium Gift of Life Network. It gives a patient needing to relocate for a heart or lung transplant up to $650 per month for rent. The sad reality is that for a lot of patients, this is simply not enough. Moreover, if a patient happens to be on another source of government funding such as Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), etc, the government of Ontario subtracts the amount given by those programs for rent from the $650, resulting in further financial strain.
Today, there are some housing options for other patient needs, such as the Ronald McDonald House for children or the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Lodge but much more capacity/rooms are needed.
While support and awareness is slowly growing, Tina and her family are teaming up Sky View Suites, a company that provides short term rentals and furnished condos, to develop a program for patients and their families who need financial assistance for accommodations near hospitals in Toronto. Sky View Suites has since worked with a particular out patient program to bring in patients free of charge. "While we are able to help a handful of patients and their families, there are still hundreds of patients struggling to find housing," says partner Matt Regush at Sky View Suites. The cost of a year round dedicated suite is approximately $30,000. Tina and Sky View Suites are now looking outside for external funding to help set up additional dedicated furnished apartments and are in the process of setting up a charity for the cause.
If you wish to donate or know other people that are interested, please contact us. Donation collections will start in early 2017.