“I couldn’t Imagine being without her”
Oscar-winning filmmaker’s near-death experience sparks a health care legacy
Senior Associate Director, Gift & Estate Planning
VHG & UBC Hospital Foundation
In 2017, David Fine sat in a doctor’s office and listened as he was told his wife, best friend and creative partner—the Academy Award-winning animator Alison Snowden—was going to die of a severe lung infection.
“It was devastating,” says David. “I had to share this terrible news with our friends and relatives, that there was no hope—we’d lost her. Our 19-year- old daughter, Lily, was going to lose her mom.”
During production of their latest animated film, Alison contracted a virus that wouldn’t go away. It quickly developed into a lung infection: Acute Respiratory Pneumonitis. Alison ended up in the emergency department at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) where her lungs deteriorated and her oxygen levels dropped so low that she ended up in an induced coma.
Alison was too weak to be considered a candidate for a lung transplant.
That is until Dr. Gordon Finlayson and Dr. Hussein Kanji came up with a radical idea. They, along with the ICU and transplant team, wanted to try something that had never been done before—waking Alison from her coma to try and build her strength enough to survive an emergency lung transplant.
They utilized the donor-funded ECMO machine to oxygenate Alison’s blood, essentially taking over the role of her lungs.
One week later, David received a late-night call—they had found Alison a match.
Dr. John Yee performed the double-lung transplant. Alison experienced a long recovery, including treatment at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, and slowly regained her strength, including her ability to animate.
“I couldn’t imagine being without her,” David says. “We live together, we work together, she’s Lily’s best friend. Every day I lay eyes on her, I feel like it’s a magic, amazing miracle day. I am so grateful for the incredible support and resources she received at VGH to save her life.”
David and Alison were so grateful for the care they received, they decided to leave gifts in their Wills to VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.
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“It’s hard for us to adequately express the depth of emotion we feel about the care we got at VGH,” says David. “I say ‘we’ because although Alison was the patient, the support for our family was incredible. And if we can leave something to recognize that when we’re not here, then that is very important to us.”