A Colorado woman in dire need of a new kidney has been denied a transplant at UCHealth because she and her donor have not received a coronavirus vaccination.
Leilani Lutali is suffering from stage five renal failure and met a willing donor in Jamiee Fougner at a bible study ten months ago, CBS 4 reports. Though the women wish to go through with the operation, they have run into issues regarding UCHealth’s coronavirus vaccination policy.
“At the end of August, they confirmed that there was no COVID shot needed at that time,” Lutali told CBS 4. “Fast forward to Sept. 28. That’s when I found out. Jamiee learned they have this policy around the COVID shot for both for the donor and the recipient.”
Fougner has not received the vaccine citing religious beliefs, per CBS 4. At the same time, Lutali believes there are too many unknowns regarding the vaccine, and also informed CBS 4 that she had the virus and has earned natural immunity.
CBS 4 reports Lutali received a letter from UCHealth explaining that she would require a vaccine to go through with the procedure at the University of Colorado Hospital:
The transplant team at University of Colorado Hospital has determined that it is necessary to place you inactive on the waiting list. You will be inactivated on the list for non-compliance by not receiving the COVID vaccine. You will have 30 days to begin the vaccination series. If your decision is to refuse COVID vaccination you will be removed from the kidney transplant list. You will continue to accrue waiting time, but you will not receive a kidney offer while listed inactive. Once you complete the COVID vaccination series you will be reactivated on the kidney transplant list pending any other changes in your health condition.
“I said I’ll sign a medical waiver. I have to sign a waiver anyway for the transplant itself, releasing them from anything that could possibly go wrong,” Lutali told CBS 4. “It’s surgery, it’s invasive. I sign a waiver for my life. I’m not sure why I can’t sign a waiver for the COVID shot.”
“I feel coerced,” Lutali stated, according to Denver7 sister station KOAA. “I feel like my life is being held in their hands in exchange for a shot, and the attitude is ‘just take the shot.'”
Fougner echoed Lutali’s sentiments.
“Here I am, willing to be a direct donor to her. It does not affect any other patient on the transplant list,” Fougner said to CBS 4. “How can I sit here and allow them to murder my friend when I’ve got a perfectly good kidney and can save her life?”
UCHealth provided Denver7 with a statement on the issue that cited the mortality rate among transplant patients:
Patients who have received a transplanted organ are at significant risk from COVID-19. Should they become infected, they are at particularly high risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death. Studies have found transplant patients who contract COVID-19 may have a mortality rate of 20% or higher. A living donor could pass COVID-19 infection on to an organ recipient even if they initially test negative for the disease, putting the patient’s life at risk.
In a Facebook live video, Tim Geitner, Republican state Rep. of El Paso County in Colorado said, “the understanding is basically, conform to this demand. Take this COVID vaccine, or otherwise, you will be denied a life-saving procedure, and best of luck.”
“I’ve had the opportunity to talk with UCHealth directly, by phone, by email, and they refuse to make exceptions or accommodations to their policy,” Rep. Geitner added in his Facebook video.
— Tim Geitner (@tgeitner) October 5, 2021
The women are desperately trying to find a hospital that will allow the surgery without vaccination requirements and have been unsuccessful in Colorado, according to CBS 4. The two are now looking at hospitals in other states, the outlet reports.