The fight has been won. Almost eight months after her kidneys initially failed and she needed to move away from home for life-saving medical care, Maureen McBratney is coming home, now able to get the dialysis she needs in Flin Flon.
McBratney was notified of the change last week, allowing her, a Saskatchewan resident, to access dialysis care at the Manitoba-based Flin Flon General Hospital. Administrative hangups over her residency status and who can access what care in which province kept McBratney from accessing care at the hospital 15 minutes away from her home, forcing her and her husband to move to Saskatoon to get the same care.
“I will be arriving back home and the Monday is February 26 - that will be my very first treatment at home,” she said.
“The uncanny thing? My birthday is that Monday. What a wonderful gift.”
Back in June, McBratney was rushed from Denare Beach to Flin Flon with what would later be diagnosed as end-stage kidney failure. She would be medevaced from Flin Flon to Saskatoon for further treatment, where her condition would stabilize after emergency dialysis.
Since June, McBratney and her husband Greg have needed to stay in Saskatoon with friends because the care she cannot receive near home is available in the city. The cost of staying in the city and keeping their place back home has been paid out of the family’s pockets, except for proceeds from fundraisers and meat draws.
Weeks after McBratney was forced to move south, she and her family went on a media blitz, hoping that public attention to her story would help move her situation forward. She and Greg were interviewed by news outlets, sharing her story nationally.
Months later, McBratney was able to finally return home for two weeks over the holidays and receive dialysis in Flin Flon while staying at her family home in Denare Beach. That was only temporary and the McBratneys headed back to Saskatoon, with no end in sight to the arrangement until last week.
McBratney said she was told that Flin Flon General Hospital has been designated as a Saskatchewan satellite site for dialysis, opening up the service for Saskatchewan residents. That was how she was able to access the service over the holidays, but others were ahead on the waitlist for longer-term care.
That is, until a second spot for dialysis opened up for a Saskatchewan resident at the hospital. That allowed McBratney to get in - when she was notified via a phone call by a health worker, she broke down in tears of joy.
“I think I cried for 20 minutes or so before I could talk. I couldn’t believe it - I was absolutely gobsmacked. I don’t know how else to put it. I just thought, ‘Holy crap. I actually am going home,’” she said.
McBratney’s next call was to her daughter Paige, who has helped Maureen fight for care.
“We did a video call and told her we had some news - I said ‘I get to come home.’ ‘For real?’ ‘Yeah.’ She instantly started to cry,” McBratney said.
That caught the attention of Paige’s son, Maureen’s grandson, eager to investigate why his mom was overcome - McBratney caught the scene on her side of the video.
“He came running over and looked into the phone and asked, ‘Why did you make mommy cry?’ I said, ‘it’s a good cry.’ ‘Why is it a good cry?’ ‘Because Grandma is coming home.’ He kind of looked at me and made a ‘For real?’ face - then he sang a song and did a happy dance," she said.
There are still a couple weeks before McBratney can officially move home - she and Greg plan to come back a few days before her first treatment, finally moving back into their home in Denare Beach, which family members have been looking after in their absence. While it’s not happening right now, knowing there is an end date and that she will be able to get the care she needs is a big consolation prize for McBratney.
“The weight of the world has been lifted off mine and my husband’s shoulders,” she said.
“We even get to watch a Bomber game - just in time for playoffs. It’s the first time in 50 years we haven’t had a season ticket.”
While the McBratneys were away from the north, they still received support from friends and family back home, who helped raise money to cover their expenses and sent along gifts and snacks to help ease the way. Now that they’re soon coming back, McBratney is thankful for the support.
“I’m doing wonderfully. I can’t wait to get home and see everybody and thank everybody for their support,” she said.
“The letter writing, the texts, everything. It was a long, hard fight, but hey - we did it. Perseverance paid off.”
With the knowledge that the border bother that kept her out has now been conquered, McBratney said she hopes any other logistical province-based issues with access to health care can be overcome if needed.
“We did it for me, but we also did it for anybody else in that situation. It’s good - the border is now open in Flin Flon for Saskatchewan,” she said.
“In Saskatchewan, we could do anything in Manitoba - except this. Now, we can.”
In the meantime, McBratney is looking forward to being home, seeing her family and friends and being able to live in peace.
“It’s been a really long road and we’re to the point now that we’re on the countdown,” she said.