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Transplant cancelled due to pandemic now back on schedule

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Hospitals are working to get thousands of cancelled appointments back on schedule after paring down nonessential and elective procedures during the height of the pandemic.

By mid-May Kymm Pfister hoped to see her 19-month-old son, Gus, recovering from a successful kidney transplant.

"He has needed a transplant since he was born," she said.

Pfister said at first doctors were waiting to see if his mother would match as a donor. Then it was a matter of Gus growing big enough to accept the organ.

They set a date for April 29.

"This is all he knows so we're so ready to show him a whole different world," Pfister said.

Three weeks before the procedure, Pfister got the call. His surgery would have to wait.

Gus was responding well to dialysis and his mother was a living donor so doctors determined his transplant wasn't urgent.

"When you're rescheduling hundreds and hundreds of operations you don't know where on that list you were going to be," she said.

As hospitals began calling patients back in late April , Dr. Aimee Becker, the Chief Medical officer at UW Health, said they tried to balance each case individually.

"Elective isn't optional," she said. "It's just a matter of when"

She said they started with the emerging cases first, working their way through the backlog, all while making sure there were enough PPE, and protective measures to keep everyone safe.

"We've learned so much over the past couple of months about providing care in a safe way," Dr. Becker said.

Pfister got the call last week.

"When she told me June 11, I thought that she was joking because that's literally a month a way," she said.

It's not just hospitals that are getting back to their schedules.

Dr. Ken Felz works in internal medicine at the UnityPoint Health - Meriter clinic in Middleton, where he said they've put in safety measures throughout their facility to keep staff and patients safe as they return.

"The chairs are pretty well spread apart," he said. "You can see the big glass shields up in front of the reception desk."

Dr. Felz said so far May has been busier than April as the clinic works to get appointments back on track.

"Pretty much anyone who needs to get into the clinic is getting into the clinic," he said.

It's all good news for Pfister who said she's eager to get her son into the hospital.

"You never really ever expect to be donating an organ to your child and then having to do it during a pandemic is, I never thought I'd be living through a pandemic," she said.

Pfister said she's still nervous the hospital may cancel the appointment again but for now, she's grateful her son has a second chance to grow up.

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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