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Dogs and owners gather outside Halifax hospital to lift spirits of family dealing with cystic fibrosis

Chantelle Lindsay, 23, has been at the QEII Health Sciences Centre for six weeks and is currently on life support

5 min read
caption Mark Lindsay being greeted by the first dog.
Kristina Pappas

Humans and canines came together over the weekend to lift the spirits of a family dealing with cystic fibrosis.

On Sunday, members of the Bernese Mountain Dogs of Nova Scotia Facebook group gathered outside the QEII Health Sciences Centre to support the Lindsay family.

Group member and organizer Brenda Hatt said they wanted to help their fellow members.

“This is a huge family, this group,” said Hatt. “And when something happens to one of the family members, everybody just seems to all of sudden want to come together and do whatever we can. Whatever it takes to help.”

caption One of the dogs sitting pretty outside the Citadel High School.
Kristina Pappas

The Lindsay family has been at the QEII Health Sciences Centre for about six weeks. Chantelle Lindsay, 23, is currently on life support. She has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes severe damage primarily to the lungs and digestive system. It affects the cells that produce mucus.

Usually, the mucus is thin and acts as lubrication. But with cystic fibrosis, it becomes sticky and thick, which can cause plugs primarily in the lungs and pancreas.

caption Chantelle Lindsay before being admitted to the hospital.
Mark Lindsay

Group members began planning at around 5 p.m. on Saturday evening with the hopes of bringing the family some comfort. By 10 p.m., all the plans had fallen into place.

“These dogs are a big part of Mark [Lindsay’s] life, and Chantelle’s too. She’s been around them all her life so we thought we’d come out and show them some support today,” said Hatt.

Group members brought their large, energetic dogs to the event outside Citadel High School. Many of the owners pinned the purple ribbon for cystic fibrosis to their jackets.

From there, the group walked and trotted to the QEII hospital where Lindsay is in the ICU. They then texted Mark Lindsay to come down.

“He’ll see the dogs that he’s missing at home and get some fur loving and show that we’re out here to support him,” said group member Jeff Jussup.

The group stood crowded together outside of the hospital entrance. The dogs were a welcome surprise to other people going in and out of the building.

One nurse gasped and smiled at the dogs as she came out of the hospital. “They probably think I have treats in my coat pocket,” she remarked after a few of them greeted her.

The group was soon joined by Mark Lindsay. The dogs welcomed him with loud whimpers and wagging tails. Lindsay took his time going around the group, hugging the dogs and his friends.

“It’s great to get some cuddles in there with them, nice to see them,” Lindsay said in a phone interview after the event. “I’m sure if she [Chantelle] were able to see them, she would have been very happy.”

caption Mark Lindsay greeting more of the dogs.
Kristina Pappas

The Lindsay family is having trouble obtaining a drug called Trikafta. Right now, it is available in the U.S. but not Canada.

“There’s been one lady in Ontario I believe who’s got the drug. Chantelle could really, really use it. There’s a lot of red tape and stuff to get through,” said Hatt.

On its website, the U.S Food and Drug Administration says Trikafta is the first triple combination therapy for patients with the most common cystic fibrosis mutation. It describes the drug as a “breakthrough therapy.”

Hatt said the family has contacted everyone from politicians — including Premier Stephen McNeil — to Vertex Pharmaceuticals, the company that owns the drug.

Trikafta costs $300,000 a year and the family is trying to get special access to the drug. A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money.

caption Some of the group members waiting outside the QEII hospital.
Kristina Pappas

In an email, Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness spokesperson, Heather Fairbairn said they are aware of the situation and appreciate the interest expressed by families who are affected.

She also said Health Canada approval is necessary before any drug can be considered for publicly-funded drug programs and Trikafta has not been approved for sale in Canada at this time.

“The manufacturer must submit to Health Canada for market approval to make this product available and so it can be reviewed by all public and private drug programs for coverage,” said Fairbairn.

“Vertex Pharmaceuticals Canada is aware that Canadian public drug programs are encouraging a submission to Health Canada. Unfortunately, we cannot compel the manufacturer to make application to market this drug in Canada.”

Hatt said more needs to be done to make this drug available in Canada while the government and Vertex seem to know about Lindsay’s case, it doesn’t appear they want to work together to get the drug here.

“There’s so many people that are in the hospital right now struggling the same as Chantelle,” Hatt said, her voice filled with emotion.

“She needs it. They need it. We need it here. Now. For her.”

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About the author

Kristina Pappas

Kristina Pappas is a journalism student. She's from western Canada and is smitten with the east coast's charm. You can find her at a beach, exploring...

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  1. T

    Tammi Cross

    Hi there. I also have a 25 year old daughter currently in the QE11 with cystic fibrosis. Her and Chantelle are both from the same small town of Truro. CF has impacted our family as well. Seeing Chantelle so sick...watching the torment her family is going through is like being stabbed in the chest... it literally takes my breath away as I am reminded about the devastation this disease causes. My heart goes out to beautiful Chantelle, her amazing family, as well as to all of the people (and four legged fur babies) fighting for her, raising awareness, raising funds to help her family and support this worthy cause against cf, to the various social media groups, newspapers, television, etc I am so thankful at the small army forming to help us win a very large war.
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