Hedda Martin, 60, of Grand Rapids, MI was turned down for a life-saving heart transplant because the transplant team at Spectrum Health determined she was not eligible due to her financial situation. However, thanks to her GoFundMe page, she has since raised more than the amount she needs for the transplant.

Hedda’s Story

Hedda was in need of a heart transplant after the chemotherapy she received in 2005 for aggressive breast cancer damaged her heart beyond repair. Since then, she has been on heart medications and receiving treatments to maintain her heart health. Her doctor recommended she get a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) to keep her alive while she waited for a new heart.

However, Hedda’s health quickly deteriorated. She was admitted to the hospital for life-threatening Congestive Heart Failure in September 2018. In November, the multidisciplinary team at the Richard Devos Heart and Lung Transplant Center met and decided that Hedda was “not a candidate at this time for a heart transplant due to needing more secure financial plan for immunosuppressive medication coverage.” The letter they sent her also recommended “a fundraising effort of $10,000.”

In so few words, Spectrum Health told Hedda Martin that unless she could pay $10,000 for the medications she would need after the transplant, she could not receive the life-saving surgery she desperately needs.

The Hospital’s Reply

Spectrum Health said in a statement that that $10,000 was required to ensure that Hedda’s body would not reject the heart transplant after the surgery. In part, it says, “The ability to pay for post-transplant care and life-long immunosuppression medications is essential to increase the likelihood of a successful transplant and longevity of the transplant recipient.” The statement also emphasizes the need for transplant patients to be able to have the means to purchase and take their immunosuppressant drugs in order for the transplant to sustain the patient’s life.

Dorrie Dils, Gift of Life CEO, says that, “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 [...] With so few hearts available for transplant, it is critical that those hearts go to patients who have a solid plan.”

Turning to the Kindness of Strangers

Hedda’s friends and family banded together to set up a GoFundMe page asking anyone and everyone to donate whatever they can. Her story was shared on Facebook and Twitter, where it went viral after it caught the attention of prominent politicians.

Within a day or two, the GoFundMe page received over $13,000 in donations. At the time this article was written, the goal was increased to $20,000 and donors have contributed $31,000 towards that goal. One anonymous donor contributed $10,000. Hopefully, Hedda says, the amount she raised will be enough to bring her case back in front of the committee for them to reconsider her eligibility for a transplant.

Pay to Live

In 2017, GoFundMe campaigners raised about $930 million through crowdfunding for healthcare-related costs alone. Almost a billion dollars—half of the $2 billion campaigners generated on the website—going towards helping people afford the costs of healthcare in America. What can we do to change this? How can we make healthcare more affordable?

The reality that people have to turn to fundraising campaigns to afford healthcare costs in the U.S. is something we at the NC Coalition for Fiscal Health are trying to shed light on and mobilize North Carolinians about. We are here to keep you updated on healthcare news and changes both in the state and in the nation.

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