Gina Quesnel, BC
Spotting a bear or a cougar was not an uncommon occurrence for Gina, as she walked her dogs through the spectacular scenery near her home in the village of Granisle in BC’s northern interior. Self-reliant to the extreme and enjoying abundant good health throughout her life, at 68 Gina relished her active lifestyle in the remote locale and felt confident in taking on more of the “heavy lifting” as her husband’s Parkinson-like illness progressed. “I put a new roof on the house by myself,” she recalls.
That was two years ago, the point when everything changed.
First, an autoimmune disorder emerged, manifesting as painful sores on her tongue and gums. Next, following a bad fall, what was initially thought to be concussion symptoms, was found to be a tumour related to the thymus gland pressing on her sternum. Aplastic anemia was the next diagnosis, a condition that left her with a pounding in her head and so profoundly weak she could not walk, talk or think. “It was like a switch was turned off,” Gina says, “I knew in my heart I was going to die.”
Her deteriorating health was beyond the abilities of the nurse practitioners in Granisle and beyond the facilities in the nearest hospital in Burns Lake; even beyond the large, regional, teaching hospital in Prince George, where the tumour was initially diagnosed. Gina needed specialized care. She was flown to Vancouver General Hospital where she received surgery to remove the tumour and was started on chemotherapy. At the point of discharge there was no going back to her beloved home in Granisle. “You have to stay in Vancouver,” her doctor told her. For five months Gina and her husband resided in Vancouver while she received chemotherapy, blood transfusions, daily check-ups and medications.
Slowly Gina’s health began to improve. Her hemoglobin count was rising and she regained her motor skills. Now, with the help of Hope Air, she and her husband are back in Northern BC. Staying with friends in Quesnel, they are close to their “wonderful, wonderful” children and grandchildren and to the landscape of home.
“Hope Air has been the best!” Gina says. She was baffled at the prospect of living indefinitely in Vancouver. When a hospital social worker learned of her situation she told Gina about Hope Air. “It’s easy to apply. You do it all online. They are so good about arranging everything.”
Gina’s robust good health is a thing of the past. She is weakened, forty pounds lighter than she was, and, she has had some setbacks. “I’ve been hit over the head with a sick stick,” she says with a laugh. Earlier this year she needed heart surgery to repair a valve. Six or more times annually she uses Hope Air to make the trip to Vancouver to meet with her doctors for medication adjustments, progress assessments and numerous tests. She is facing another surgery, related to the autoimmune condition, in the coming months. Without Hope Air, Gina would be forced to endure a fourteen-hour bus ride each way, a trip that is not manageable in her new fragile state.
For now, Gina is focused on getting stronger and spending time with her husband and their children and grand-children, who reside nearby.