A New Brunswick woman who was told she can't donate her kidney to her ailing baby boy says she has been touched by an outpouring of support and offers of help from around the world, even as she presses health officials to reverse a "frustrating" decision on her suitability to be a donor.
Ashley Barnaby said Tuesday that she has received overtures from people as far away as Columbia who say they are willing to donate a kidney to help her son, 18-month-old Zaccari Buell, who suffers from congenital nephrotic syndrome – a kidney condition – and heart issues.
"It's unbelievable to know that someone is willing to go through all of that workup and surgery and the risks that come with surgery for someone they don't even know and have just been following on Facebook," she said about the social media site called Little warrior Zaccari.
"It's a blessing. You can't describe how nice it feels to know that someone else wants to help you and save your son."
The young mother said people from the States, Canada and her community in Moncton offered to begin the screening process to determine whether they could be donors in October after the little boy was cleared of a life-threatening infection and could be added to the transplant list.
She said others reached out recently after she revealed that staff at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax rejected her application to be her son's donor because of her history of high blood pressure and gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
The 28-year-old, who also has a seven-year-old son, said she was told she runs the risk of developing diabetes in the future if she gives her organ to her little boy.
But, Barnaby said the risk to herself is small compared to the kind of complete change the transplant would bring to Buell, who has spent much of his young life at hospitals in Nova Scotia and now requires 12 hours of dialysis daily at his Moncton home due to stage-four renal failure.
She said she underwent a three-month assessment process that included multiple blood and urine tests, an abdominal ultasound, electrocardiogram, a two-hour screening with a social worker to discuss her mental health and kidney tests.
Barnaby said she disclosed her previous health issues and First Nations ethnicity in a questionnaire at the beginning of the process, but was told months later that those traits made her ineligible.
"I feel like we wasted three months of precious time," she said.
"If I was told back in October that there was going to be too many red flags to move forward, then I could have looked at all those other people who want to start. It's frustrating."
Dr. Christine Dipchand, the medical director of the living kidney donation program, said in an emailed statement that national and international guidelines are used to assess living kidney donors with the purpose of ensuring donor safety.
"It is very detailed and involves many tests, and takes months to complete," she said when asked why Barnaby wouldn't be ruled out at the start of the process. "Given the number of factors that go into the decision, it is not uncommon for individuals to be deemed ineligible for donation during this process."
Barnaby may have to rely on another donor if a board that's reviewing the decision again rejects her as a donor, but adds that the process for another candidate could take anywhere from six months to a year.
Over the weekend, she started an online petition to press the provincial health authority to allow her to donate her kidney and has collected 600 supporters.