NEWS
12/24/2017 12:21 EST | Updated 12/24/2017 12:40 EST

Inuk woman released from hospital after struggle with liver failure

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-six-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.

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.