A Grand Rapids woman who was turned down for a heart transplant for lack of money says that the hospital may reconsider her case now that a fundraising campaign collected more than $28,000 for the necessary anti-rejection drugs.
Hedda Martin, 60, wrote in a Facebook post Monday that a heart transplant committee with Spectrum Health, the Grand Rapids-based hospital system, could meet as soon as Tuesday and decide whether she is now eligible for a new heart.
The committee previously ruled that she was ineligible, citing her lack of financial wherewithal to afford the drugs, considering the $4,500 annual deductible in her Medicare plan. Martin’s 20 percent drug copay would be about $700 per month until she met that deductible.
In an official letter that went viral across social media, a Spectrum Health nurse informed Martin that her transplant was denied for now and that the transplant committee recommended she undertake a $10,000 fundraising campaign for the anti-rejection drugs.
The situation caught the attention of incoming U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, an advocate of single-payer health insurance who has gained national prominence as the youngest woman elected to Congress who upset a longtime Democratic incumbent.
As of late Monday, Martin’s GoFundMe campaign had raised nearly $28,300 — including one $10,000 anonymous donation.
Martin, who is suffering from congestive heart failure, was originally scheduled to undergo surgical implantation of a ventricular assist pump as a “bridge” to her eventual heart transplant. But following the hospital’s rejection letter, the pump became her Plan B survival option.
She expected to live up to eight more years with the pump, compared with 15 to 20 more years if she received a new heart.
However, the pump implantation surgery — scheduled for Monday — was abruptly postponed in light of how much money her GoFundMe campaign was raising, according to Martin’s Facebook post.
She wrote: “No surgery today. I requested for my case to be brought to the transplant board again tomorrow. Wish me luck. I have my $10,000 (funding) request fulfilled.”
Martin, whose heart was damaged from 2005 chemotherapy for breast cancer, also expressed gratitude in the Facebook post for all the financial support she received.
“My heart goes out to all of you with the deepest of love and thanks,” she wrote. “The outpouring of support, even though it ended up becoming very political, I appreciate so very much.”
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Spectrum Health has declined Free Press interview requests, referring to a general statement about the situation on its website.
It remains unclear whether the hospital system considered contacting the makers of the anti-rejection drugs before issuing the organ transplant denial. Some drugmakers offer deep discounts or even free medication for poor patients in life-threatening situations.
“The fact is that transplants require lifelong care and immunosuppression drugs, and therefore costs are sometimes a regrettable and unavoidable factor in the decision making process,” Spectrum Health’s statement says.
Representatives with the American Heart Association and Gift of Life Michigan, an Ann Arbor-based organ and tissue donation organization, said Monday that they were unaware of any similar situations involving patients who were denied heart transplants for lack of ability to afford post-surgery drugs.
Gift of Life CEO Dorrie Dils said it is understandable that organ transplant centers would consider potential transplant recipients’ ability to keep themselves and their new organs healthy.
“If this woman were to receive a transplant and not take her medications, not only would the heart be lost, but she would likely die,” Dils said. “With so few hearts available for transplant, it is critical that those hearts go to patients who have a solid plan.”
There were 159 people in Michigan waiting for a heart transplant as of Nov. 1, according to United Network for Organ Sharing data. There were 3,102 people in line in Michigan for all organ transplants, most of them waiting for kidneys.
Contact JC Reindl: 313-222-6631 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JCReindl.
Source : https://www.freep.com/story/money/2018/11/26/grand-rapids-woman-heart-transplant-gofundme-goal-met/2116805002/