12/24/2017 18:20 EST | Updated 12/25/2017 15:18 EST

Delilah Saunders Released From Hospital After Liver Failure

Doctors say she won't need a new liver in the immediate future.

Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press
Delilah Saunders, sister of the late Loretta Saunders, is seen at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Membertou, N.S., on Oct. 30, 2017.

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — An Inuk activist from Labrador whose struggle with acute liver failure sparked a national discussion about an Ontario transplant policy is being released from hospital in what her friends and family are calling a "Christmas miracle.''

Twenty-five-year-old Delilah Saunders has been discharged from Toronto General Hospital's transplant unit and is returning to Newfoundland to recover.

Saunders says she has made a "miraculous'' turnaround since being diagnosed with acute liver failure about two weeks ago, and doctors say it doesn't look like she'll need a transplant in the immediate future.

She says she was initially told she was ineligible for an Ontario waiting list because she had not abstained from alcohol for a minimum of six months, but she believes her condition was triggered by a buildup of Tylenol she was taking for jaw pain.

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Saunders, who is a prominent activist for Aboriginal women, says she plans to advocate on behalf of other patients who are denied potentially life-saving treatment because of the alcohol-use policy.

Transplant doctors have cited evidence that some alcoholics return to drinking after a transplant of the organ, and the transplant may not succeed as a result.

She says she has been awestruck by the outpouring of support for her case, and her first-hand experience navigating the health system will fuel her campaign to increase access to medical care for Indigenous Peoples and others.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that Delilah Saunders is 26. She is actually 25.

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