Emma's transplant storyline on 'Bates Motel' and everything wrong with it

Bates Motel features a storyline with character Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke) who is battling Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disorder, that has caused her to need a lung transplant. Despite the show's success, the well thought-out plot line and amazing production, there are several glaring inaccuracies with Emma's storyline that need to be addressed.

I myself have had a lung transplant, and I thought it was really cool with they introduced Emma onto the show, seeing as how lung transplants are rarely talked about in mainstream culture. I admire this show for bringing that concept of organ transplants onto mainstream TV that isn't a medical show, however as a transplant recipient it is frustrating to witness all these inaccuracies. I, however, do not have Cystic Fibrosis, so I am not an expert on the matter, but I will do my best to address the plot line issues using up-to-date research and my own experiences.

The show is set in Oregon. In Season 4, Emma had her lung transplant at a hospital in Portland, despite the fact that there is no organ transplant facility in the state of Oregon. It would have made more sense for the show to be set in either Colorado (University of Colorado Hospital Transplant, Denver, Colorado) or Washington (University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, Washington).

The second reason and a sub-reason why it makes more sense to set the show in Colorado or Washington is because Norman's older brother Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot) is in the cannabis industry, which is a booming industry in two aforementioned states. And because the show is filmed in Canada, it closely matches the scenery of Seattle, also making it more logical to base the show there. Executive producers of the show, Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin were quoted by Oregon Live  in 2013 when Bates Motel first aired about their reason for setting the show in the made up Oregon town of White Pine Bay. "A beautiful looking-almost perfect-bucolic town on the Oregon coast," said Cuse of this made up place, "formerly a logging town, the economy, like many Pacific coastal towns , now is fueled by the marijuana trade." Cuse goes on to say that their is danger amongst the "secret town and its residents." Obviously, setting Bates Motel in a small town added to the storyline than setting it in a big city like Seattle, however a small Washington town would have posed no contradiction to this storyline.

Because Dylan is in the cannabis industry, one particular episode in Season 4, involves him and Caleb Calhoun (Kenny Johnson) going on a dangerous mission to earn "half a million dollars" for Emma to have her transplant. Granted that the surgery itself can cost roughly half a million (my surgery totaled to be about $500,000), but in the show they implied she needed the money to move higher up on the waiting list. The way the waiting list for organ transplants works, according to UNOS, is like this: the sicker you are, the more priority you become. If a donor comes in, and you're a match, and you're high enough on the list, you will be a priority above other patients and receive that donor's organ(s). Not having the money doesn't disqualify you.

Emma may or may not have been insured under her father to help pay for the overall costs of the surgery, plus treatment afterwards. Her father is a taxidermist, so he would be self-insured. The show has not addressed health insurance.  I had my transplant in 2008, prior to Obamacare being put in place and I was insured under both my parents' insurances, with the addition of Medicaid. It is possible for people to undergo these pricey surgeries and not have health insurance at all, i.e. Medicaid. They did this  simply to create a romance between Dylan and Emma.

After Emma's transplant she shows Dylan her surgical scar (running under her breasts), that is correct. However they forgot to add chest tube scars (there are suppose to be four, sometimes six that are on opposing sides of the rib cage). Chest tubes are inserted into a person's chest cavity following a lung transplant to drain excess fluid. I have four that are just under my incision scar.

In Season 5, Emma and Dylan have a baby. Although it is possible for women, post-transplant to reproduce, it is extremely risky. The medications one has to take following a transplant can cause birth defects to a fetus (similar to consuming alcohol or drug use during pregnancy). Since it's a year and half post transplant for Emma in Season 5, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information it is not recommended that she try to have a baby at all. The first year post-transplant is crucial and the most likely time for a patient to get sick, have rejection, and/or die. Furthermore, because Emma has Cystic Fibrosis which is a genetic disorder passed on from parent to offspring there is a 25% chance her children will have this disease. If Dylan were to be a carrier of Cystic Fibrosis and not know it that poses a 50% chance of their children having this disease but this is not being addressed in the show and their baby, Kate, thus far appears perfectly healthy. For people with CF or post-transplant to have children they must go through extensive consulting and treatment. Emma would still be undergoing treatment for both her transplant and CF, both treatment regimes being life-long, making it that much more difficult to carry a pregnancy to full term and having a healthy baby. Bates Motel doesn't seem to be addressing Emma's treatment regimes anymore.

Another inaccuracy comes with basic oxygen tanks. Prior to transplantation, Emma is using outdated metal oxygen tanks. These are not widely used anymore because they don't last long. Helios oxygen tanks have a much longer timeframe, in which a person can go 8+ hours a day on them without running out of oxygen. It was the mid-2000s when these became more widely used.  However, they make noise, and for the purpose of filming a TV show, it doesn't work.

Despite these inaccuracies of the show, I found Bates Motel's use of the character Emma to be unique and relatable. Many of the plot gaps were done for the purpose of entertainment or to progress a relationship between Emma and Dylan. However, it is important for be people to be educated about the process of organ transplantation and donation. I commend Bates Motel for putting this concept at the forefront of  their young viewers' minds, and for creating such an enjoyable character. I applaud Cooke's outstanding performance and Bates Motel because it's one of the many factors that setting it apart from any other TV show.

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