Angry at the system
Janine Clark and her father Brian wonder how many lives are being put in jeopardy by the refusal of the B.C. health care system to assist patients in need.
Janine Clark, 30, of Mill Bay, a Type 1 diabetic, is a severe case with extensive documentation from doctors and specialists, and yet her application for an insulin pump was turned down by the Ministry of Social Development’s Health Assistance Branch and, again, on appeal.
Word spread around the valley about her situation and numerous people rallied to help. The Duncan Lions Club filled the void and came through with the $7,000 needed for Clark to purchase an insulin pump.
Clark considers herself lucky to be alive because her condition is indeed considered life-threatening. She’s been a diabetic since the age of seven.
“I know it’s directly related to the diabetic issues,’’ said Clark of the seriousness of her condition.
Since receiving the pump in February, “my levels have already gone down significantly,’’ she said.
Clark was in Victoria General Hospital from Dec. 16 to Jan. 7, and on life support for four days in the Intensive Care Unit due to high blood sugar levels.
“Dad found me in a coma convulsing,’’ said Janine. “I had total system organ failure twice. I died on the table twice.’’
Janine’s kidneys shut down, she couldn’t breathe on her own and her heart stopped.
“When she was in the hospital, they kept her in there a lot longer because they couldn’t control the levels,’’ said Brian.
Compounding Janine’s problems are her suffering from fibromyalgia and need to take Gravol to digest her food at a cost of $300 per month.
Janine was also turned down by B.C. health care for assistance to cover the cost of a medication known as dimenhydrinate for the condition to prevent nausea. The cost of medications puts a huge dent in the $980 per month Janine receives on disability.
“I now need to decide every day whether I can afford to eat with a dose of Gravol or if I cannot afford it, not eat and probably vomit anyways on an empty, upset stomach, paying even closer attention to my diabetes,’’ noted Janine.
She documented all these details and much more in a letter to Minister of Health Terry Lake on Feb. 13 in her pledge for the insulin pump, along with numerous supporting documents.
“My readings are inconsistent — no matter what I do, or how much or little activity I have,’’ she wrote. “I am living in a nightmare within my own body.’’
“This patient has severe diabetic gastroparesis and is not responsive to regular medications,’’ wrote Janine’s doctor, Karen McIntyre, on Feb. 19. “She responds well to intermittent intramuscular injections of Gravol (dimenhydrinate), up to 50 miligrams, four times a day.
“Her blood sugars are currently not well-controlled and we are trying to get her an insulin pump. Until she gets the pump, she may need to remain on Gravol.
“I fear that her inability to obtain one, due to her financial situation, will result in further hospitalizations. It is medically necessary and potentially life-threatening if she were not able to obtain one.’’
Endocrinologist Richard Phillips of Victoria added his support for Janine.
“As a means of improving her health and quality of life, and reducing the likelihood of her having additional hospitalizations, I would strongly advocate that Janine receive coverage for an insulin pump,’’ Phillips wrote.
Despite the urgings of her doctors , the reply came back that Janine had been denied assistance.
“They don’t even respond to you, it’s just a form letter,’’ Brian pointed out.
“After reviewing your application, the ministry determined that you did not meet the eligibility criteria for this health supplement,’’ reads the decision, providing few other details about the reason.
“B.C.’s just allowing people to die,’’ said Janine.
“She’s not the only case where this happens all the time,’’ said Brian.
“How do you get to the ministers, how do you get changes?’’
MLA Bill Routley was among those hearing their concerns and planned to take up the matter in the legislature. The Clarks also noted City of Duncan Councillor Sharon Jackson has been instrumental in providing information about various means for her appeals.
Of course, Janine wouldn’t be anywhere without the Lions Club’s action, typical of the valley’s service clubs that don’t hesitate to help when there’s a crisis.
“I should have been on it 10 years ago,’’ she said. “It’s gotten to the point literally of life or death. Even with the pump, my prognosis is uncertain.’’
The Clarks will be speaking about the entire ordeal at one of the Lions Club’s upcoming dinners.
“This is no longer just about me,’’ said Janine. “I want to advocate for anybody in this situation.
“I’m very angry at the system.’’
It's not the first time the Lions have stepped up
This isn’t the first time the Duncan Lions’ Club picked up the tab to help a valley resident when the medical system turned them down.
Carla Homeniuk’s insulin pump broke down last November and “the ministry would not cover anything towards my new insulin pump,’’ she noted in December.
“The Duncan Lions’ Club have come through for me as Christmas angels and is going to cover the cost of a new pump for me,’’ Homeniuk indicated at the time.
As a single of mother of two on disability and working part-time, she was grateful to receive the $6,300 gift from the Lions.
“Without my pump, I was a dead woman,’’ she indicated.
“We have assisted so many that require health related items that the ministry either will not, cannot fund — everything from false teeth, hearing aids and medical equipment such as scooters, wheelchairs, walkers and the list goes on,’’ pointed out the Lions’ Club’s Jim Harnden.