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Daughter fights for dialysis care in Prince Rupert

Jaswinder Bains holds a photograph of her parents. She is fighting for a dialysis machine in Prince Rupert after being forced to send her dying mother away for treatment. - Martina Perry photo
Jaswinder Bains holds a photograph of her parents. She is fighting for a dialysis machine in Prince Rupert after being forced to send her dying mother away for treatment.
— image credit: Martina Perry photo

Jaswinder Bains has vowed to do all she can to get a dialysis facility for Prince Rupert in honour of her late mother.

Her mother Jaswant Kaur Kalar was unable to spend the last months of her life in Prince Rupert because she required hemodialysis every other day after her kidneys failed. Bains hopes by sharing her story she can raise awareness about the need of a centre in Prince Rupert so that people needing treatment can remain in the community with their loved ones.

After suffering from kidney failure and heart failure, Kalar was brought to the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital where she was in intensive care for a number of days.

After originally being told her mother wouldn't be transferred to Vancouver for further care due to her age, Bains said Prince Rupert Regional Hospital staff pulled some strings and Kalar was eventually moved to the Kidney Care Clinic at St. Paul's Hospital. Here, Kalar was hospitalized for more than a month, with Bains and her five-year-old son travelling traveling down a number of times to be with her.

During her stay at St. Paul’s, Kalar’s condition continued to deteriorate.

“I offered my kidney. My brother offered his kidney, but they told us [no because she was 80 years old],” Bains said.

Kalar required hemodialysis every second day, taking between three and five hours to complete with each centre visit.

While present on the North Coast at one time, there is no longer a hemodialysis facility in Prince Rupert; the closest centre is in Terrace.

Sheila Gordon-Payne, health service administrator for Northern Health, said there are people in Prince Rupert who have home hemodialysis, which requires training to perform. Because Kalar’s first language isn’t English, she was unable to get the needed training. Bains tried to get the training but was overwhelmed with all she needed to know.

Although she wanted to, Bains knew she couldn’t make the required number of trips with a full-time job and family to take care of.

Then Bains had to make the difficult decision of relocating Kalar and her husband to the Toronto-area to live with her son. The resolution was especially hard on Bains, who was extremely close with her mother; her mom and dad had lived with the family for more than 20 years prior to her becoming ill.

“My mother never liked Toronto, neither did my dad because it’s too crowded. We are from a small village back home and this town is just like my own village,” she Bains, who said her mother pleaded to go back to Prince Rupert with her.

“I had to let her relocate in the time she needed me most. She left on the condition that I would visit her every two months. She stayed with my brother for about 10 months before she passed away. I could not be there in her last moments; I will always regret this,” said Bains.

Gordon-Payne said Northern Health tries to provide services as close to the community as it can, but cannot offer every service without a certain level of demand.

“Every once and awhile this comes up because it is difficult for families. We try to support families,” she said, adding the Northern Health Connections Bus runs every second day.

“The issue for us is that our numbers are low. For us to run a program you need to have a certain number of people who require that specialized care,” she said.

Gordon-Payne was unable to provide the cost of equipment, but said the cost of training would be more significant.

“If someone was to say tomorrow they would buy the equipment, what we would still need to look at is training the nurses. Do we have enough cases that they keep their skill level up, how do we cover if people are sick or on holiday, how do we keep everyone up to date and current. It’s more than just having a piece of equipment?” she said, adding the BC Renal Agency and Northern Health monitor communities to decided when a centre is needed.

“If our need was to increase, we aren’t saying there won’t ever be increased service here. It needs to be identified at a sustainable level,” Gordon-Payne explained.

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