In hospital 6 hours a day

Shawna Scopacasa attends the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, to receive intravenous infusions of potassium and magnesium for a rare kidney disorder she has. Scopacasa has tried to access home-care services, but has been denied five times.

Shawna Scopacasa spends a minimum of six hours a day at the hospital as on outpatient.

The 45-year-old Thunder Bay woman is there seven days a week. She’s there on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, every holiday and family occasion.

Scopacasa has Gitelman Syndrome, a rare kidney disorder. She has a defect with the tube to her kidney; it leaks potassium, magnesium and sodium to critically low levels.

So she comes to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s ambulatory care unit every single day to receive intravenous (IV) infusions of potassium and magnesium and some days that isn’t even enough.

If she exerts herself too much in the evening, Scopacasa has to head back to the hospital — to the emergency department — to get topped up.

Gitelman Syndrome is a genetic disorder. Scopacasa’s brother also has the condition but not as severe. He manages his health with oral medications.

The condition went undiagnosed for years. Scopacasa suffered severe weakness, stomach and back pain and she was frequently diagnosed with urinary tract infections and kidney infections. Finally, bloodwork showed low magnesium levels and she was referred to specialists.

Once diagnosed in early January of 2015, she began IV treatments three times a week, eventually needing the treatment seven days a week.

“When I wasn’t coming every day, I ended up in (the ER) with a high heart rate,” said Scopacasa. “My heart was short-circuiting due to the electrolyte imbalance, which is a side-effect of Gitelman. I’m at a high risk for cardiac arrest and seizuring.”

What Scopacasa would like is to receive the treatment at home, at least a couple of days a week.

However, she’s been denied five times for home-care.

See the full story in the print and digital editions of The Chronicle-Journal.

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