Dez Young says he has gone up to 16 days without food while staying at the Victoria General Hospital, because no one is available to change his feeding tube. (Courtesy of Arabella Young)

Dez Young says he has gone up to 16 days without food while staying at the Victoria General Hospital, because no one is available to change his feeding tube. (Courtesy of Arabella Young)

Flawed system leaves 19-year-old starving for weeks at Victoria hospital

Dez Young has gone up to 16 days without food, waiting for his feeding tube to be replaced

Before Dez Young was admitted to the Victoria General Hospital (VGH), he had no idea someone could survive without food for 16 days, and he certainly didn’t think someone in the care of a hospital would be forced to.

But, 11 months into his chronic care stay – first at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital, then at VGH – the 19-year-old has become well acquainted with the feeling of starving.

“I was begging for food and I wasn’t getting any,” Young said.

Dez Young, 19, relies on a feeding tube to get his nutrition due to the long term effects of chemo therapy he received as a child.(Courtesy of Arabella Young)

He’s a childhood cancer survivor now dealing with the long term effects of two and a half years of chemotherapy. Last May, Dez started experiencing pain and nausea when he ate. He headed to the hospital thinking they would run some tests and have him out in a couple of weeks.

Instead, Dez was told his stomach could no longer process food on its own and he would now need to rely on a feeding tube inserted in the top of his small intestine to sustain nutrition. The problem is, every few months that tube cracks or falls out and, because Dez requires a radiologist to properly re-insert it and radiologists seem few and far between, he often goes days or weeks without food.

READ ALSO: ‘Belittled and dismissed:’ Former patients of Victoria Psychiatric Emergency Services call for change

His mom, Arabella Young, estimates it’s happened eight or nine times now with 16 days being the longest. During that time, Dez is sustained on nothing but a saline or glucose IV. His already diminished body mass is reduced even further and his stay at the hospital is extended.

“Each time it’s a little harder because I have less energy stores to get me through it,” Dez said. “I’m not a normal nourished person who can just go without food for a few days.”

The last time his tube needed replacing was April 15. That weekend, friends and family gathered outside VGH with signs reading “Feed Our Child” and “Everyone Has a Right to Food”. On Monday night, Arabella said the hospital manager came out and promised to get Dez in. His time slot was bumped back several hours, but he did get his tube replaced.

A small group gathered outside VGH, calling on the hospital to replace Dez Young’s feeding tube, after he had already gone several days without food.(Courtesy of Arabella Young)

READ ALSO: GoFundMe launched for Saanich father of 5 diagnosed with incurable cancer

In order for Dez to be released from the hospital, he needs to build up his strength and be at a stable feed tube rate. But, every time he is waiting for a replacement, he seems to be pushed back behind more “urgent” operations. Dez said he’s extremely appreciative of the doctors and nurses on his floor who have tried their best to get him in, but that ultimately it isn’t in their control.

“While intentions are good,” Dez said, “we need resources and actual actions.”

Why, he questions, did they save his life with chemo if they weren’t ready to support him afterward.

“Survival statistics are great, but in my mind it’s not a success until the long-term outcomes are good too,” he said.

Island Health did not accept an interview request, but in a statement said due to privacy laws and confidentiality policies it cannot discuss or disclose details about individual patients or the care they receive.

“We are always concerned when care received does not meet a patient’s expectations, and we take all care complaints seriously,” the statement read.


Do you have a story tip? Email: jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

VictoriaVictoria General HospitalWest Shore

Just Posted

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

When a loved one is in need of medical care, no one wants to be on the telephone trying to explain how to find the residence where they are, especially living in a rural area where all driveways look the same. (Barriere First Responders photo)
Is your civic address posted on your property?

If not, how will First Responders find your address if an emergency arises?

Photo by Mikael Kjellstrom, www.pixdesk.ca
Honey bees out and about

Thank you to Mikael Kjellstrom for sharing this amazing photo of an… Continue reading

The TNRD is undertaking a Master Trails Plan for the community of Blue River. (Darcy Lawrey / Pexels Photo)
TNRD to develop trails plan for Blue River

A survey is available for public input on the TNRD website.

(standing head)
Tremendous Tuesday attended by 35 ladies

It wasn’t a Manic Monday - it was a Tremendous Tuesday on… Continue reading

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Police investigate a fatal 2011 shooting in a strip mall across from Central City Shopping Centre, which was deemed a gang hit. The Mayor’s Gang Task Force zeroed in on ways to reduce gang involvement and activity. (File photo)
COVID-19 could be a cause in public nature of B.C. gang violence: expert

Martin Bouchard says the pandemic has changed people’s routines and they aren’t getting out of their homes often, which could play a role in the brazen nature of shootings

Tinder, an online dating application that allows users to anonymously swipe to like or dislike other’s profiles. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. man granted paternity test to see if Tinder match-up led to a ‘beautiful baby’

The plaintiff is seeking contact with the married woman’s infant who he believes is his child

Most Read