Stratford woman dies three years after receiving two new lungs

TC Media
Published on January 15, 2014
Melissa MacPhail of Stratford is seen playing with her son Keegan during a healthy period that followed her double lung transplant in late 2010. MacPhail died Friday after her body rejected the lungs and she was unable to get a match in time for a second double lung transplant.
Submitted photo

Melissa MacPhail’s new lease on life has sadly ended just three years after a successful double lung transplant.

The single Stratford mother died peacefully Friday surrounded by family at the Toronto General Hospital. She was 35.

Stacey MacPhail says her sister Melissa’s body started to reject the transplanted lungs about one year ago. She had a virus and other complications.

“She was really, really ill,’’ says Stacey.

Melissa was in Toronto since July waiting for her second double lung transplant. She was listed as a priority recipient if and when suitable lungs became available.

“She was right at the top of the list,’’ says Stacey.

Melissa suffered from systemic scleroderma, a disease that causes scarring and thickening of the lung tissues. She spent 10 months living in Toronto in 2010 with her young son Keegan and her mother Ann waiting for a double lung transplant.

Her ordeal was covered closely in The Guardian, including Melissa’s hard won financial assistance from the P.E.I. government.

Then Health and Wellness Minister Carolyn Bertram announced a new reimbursement policy to provide financial assistance to medical travel and medical accommodations to Islanders in need of transplant surgery. The move appeared to come in response to a strong public campaign urging government at the time to help Melissa with her costs.

Stacey adds that her sister made a strong effort before and after her transplant surgery to highlight the need for organ donations.

Melissa enjoyed two good years of much improved health following the double lung transplant that took place in late 2010, says Stacey.

“She felt normal,’’ she says. “She was able to go biking. She was able to go walking with her son. She was able to jump on the trampoline.’’

Stacey says Keegan must now go on without the mother he was all but glued to during his first nine years of life.

“He’s doing OK but he has got a lot to deal with,. The poor little guy: he was with mommy all along.’’

Melissa is survived by her mother Ann as well as siblings Stacey, Clarey, Forbes, Jamie, Charlene, Trevor and Amber. She is predeceased by her father Ronald MacPhail.

The funeral arrangements will be announced later.