Teen Denied Heart Transplant Gets a Chance, Thanks to Public Outrage
15-year-old Anthony Stokes needs a heart transplant or he could only have six months left to live. At first, doctors said that he did not qualify for the transplant list because of “non-compliance” and low grades. After his family went public with his case, Anthony was placed on the transplant list.
The initial denial of a spot on the transplant for Anthony is troubling. Anthony’s family had learned via an August 7 letter that, because Georgia teen had a “history of non-compliance” and low grades at school, he would not be placed on the list, WSBTV. A history of non-compliance is, said a letter from at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Hospital (as quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution), one of the “contraindications to listing for heart transplant.”
Recipients of a heart transplant have to follow a strict regimen of medications and other follow-up care in order for the transplant to be a success. Medical professionals at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in Eggleston at first seemed to think that Anthony would not “comply” with such; they also said that Anthony’s history of trouble with the law was a factor in denying him a transplant for an enlarged heart.”They said they don’t have any evidence that he would take his medicine or that he would go to his follow-ups,” Melencia Hamilton, Anthony’s mother, told WSBTV.
Christine Young Brown, president of the Newton-Rockdale Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, put it bluntly, saying that doctors had “given [Anthony] a death sentence.”
Noting that “the well-being of our patients is always our first priority,” Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta spokeswoman Patty Gregory said in a statement that “we follow very specific criteria in determining eligibility for a transplant of any kind.”
The hospital also noted that it would continue “to work with this family and [look] at all options regarding this patient’s health care.” Apparently it has done so and now Anthony has been placed on the transplant list.
Nonetheless, for medical professionals to first deem Anthony not to be a candidate for a heart transplant on the grounds of past non-compliance and poor grades is unacceptable. Doctors seemed to presume that he would not be able to undergo treatment even if he knew that it was essential for his survival.
Based on statements from Anthony’s family and supporters, this will not be the case at all. Mack Major, a friend of Anthony’s, says to WSBTV that “the non-compliance is fabricating, because they don’t want to give him a heart. This is unacceptable because he must lose his life because of a non-compliance.” Anthony and his family are more than aware of how crucial a heart transplant is for him and of the necessity for him undergoing medical treatment afterwards.
Indeed, it could be possible that some of Anthony’s past behavioral issues could be linked to health problems whose severity was not completely realized.
In the United States, about 3,000 people are on the waiting list for a heart transplant at any time but only about 2,000 donor hearts are available each year. Those who have been on the list longer tend to be eligible to receive the first available heart.
Even though Anthony’s name is now on the waiting list, he is not necessarily going to receive a heart transplant. But now that the hospital has done the right thing, he and his family can hope that he might receive one. Other families should not have to go through the ordeal Anthony and his family did to be placed on the transplant list.
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