Liver transplant patient Gord Lawrence in his Mississauga home with all the different expensive drugs that are bankrupting him. (Dave Thomas/Toronto Sun)
MISSISSAUGA - Gord Lawrence sits at his kitchen table and looks at the pile of pills in front of him.
They’re in boxes, plastic bottles and individually wrapped packages. They are essential, life-sustaining medications. They are also paving the path to his financial ruin.
“I can become a ward of the state, dependent on the province for the rest of my life, if I go any further into debt than I already am,” he said.
Those are the worse fears of the 59-year-old Mississauga, Ont. resident who said he and his wife Maryjean have lived a “middle-class life” until his liver, and a vital part of Ontario’s medical system, failed him.
“What happens after the transplant, after the million and a quarter dollars was spent on saving my life, is you’re hung out to dry,” Lawrence said.
Just a few months ago, Lawrence was optimistic about the new opportunity before him. He had received the ultimate reprieve – a new liver – in the form of a life-saving transplant at Toronto General Hospital.
In the Fall of 2011, Lawrence began to gain weight in his abdomen. It was the first symptom of acute liver failure.
Soon, a doctor’s test reviled the condition, brought on by hepatitis C, which he had unknowingly contracted when he was the victim of a sexual assault suffered as a teen.
“Like most people, I didn’t know it until it turned acute,” he said. “I was shocked.”
After a serious complication in early October 2012, Lawrence found himself near the top of the donor list. That was no small feat given that donor rates in Ontario are low and the wait for an organ can take years.
He is effusive in his praise for the transplant team and all of the health care workers who have assisted him.
“I am deeply grateful for the gift I’ve been given,” he said. “It is a second chance at life.”
But the joy of that new beginning on Oct. 12, quickly turned into a battle with the province’s health care system. With $2,000-$4,000 in anti-rejection pills and other medication a month, Lawrence said paying for everything is impossible without help. He fears other transplant recipients could be suffering in silence, too ill or afraid to speak up.
“For me to stop taking these medications, I’m dead,” he said. “I’ve died a horrible death in about two weeks. The rejection process isn’t pretty.”