Michigan Woman Turned Down For A Heart Transplant Due To Low Income Raises Over $29,000

Spectrum Health said the woman couldn’t have a life-saving surgery unless she launched a fundraiser to pay for follow-up care.

Entrance to Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
WMrapids / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Spectrum Health said the woman couldn’t have a life-saving surgery unless she launched a fundraiser to pay for follow-up care.

When 60-year-old Grand Rapids, Michigan, resident Hedda Martin applied for a heart transplant, she got a very surprising and disheartening response. Per WWMT3, the letter she received from Spectrum Health Heart and Lung Specialized Clinics said she was “not a candidate at this time for a heart transplant due to needing [a] more secure financial plan for immunosuppressive medication.” Spectrum Health then recommended that she launch a “fundraising effort for $10,000.”

Spectrum Health performs heart transplants in Grand Rapids at the Richard DeVos Heart and Lung Transplant Clinic. The clinic was named after United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s deceased father-in-law.

Martin’s congestive heart failure developed as a result of chemotherapy that she received in 2005 to treat breast cancer. The Michigan woman underwent a series of heart treatments intended to improve her condition, but doctors at the Meijer Heart Center Failure Clinic determined that she will only survive with a heart transplant. According to the family’s GoFundMe page, Martin’s heart condition is her only serious health problem.

Spectrum Health told Martin and her family that she would not even be placed on the heart transplant waiting list until she could prove that she had at least $10,000 in savings that would be used to cover her co-pay for two years’ worth of heart anti-rejection medication.

Taking Spectrum Health’s suggestion, Martin’s son Alex launched an online fundraiser. Within the first 48 hours, the family had raised almost $30,000. Martin is now able to reapply for a heart transplant but will have to wait for the entire application and consideration process to be completed again before she’ll be potentially eligible for placement on the transplant list. In the meantime, she has to hope that her damaged heart holds out long enough to get through the medical red tape.

MichiganRadio reported that Martin’s healthcare providers said a heart transplant could extend her lifespan by 20 years. The Scientific Registry of Heart Transplant Recipients performed an analysis of Spectrum Health’s heart transplant program, and the numbers suggest that Martin won’t have an easy road ahead of her.

At the end of 2017, there were 43 people on the company’s waitlist. Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids averages 35 new additions to the list annually, thereby totaling 78. Out of these, fewer than 50 will receive a transplant each year, with another 11 patients dying before a heart becomes available. Only 62.5 percent of all eligible waitlist members will receive a transplant within three years. Of those, approximately 14 percent of transplants will not be successful.

The family’s fundraiser is still collecting donations for Martin’s future care. Martin’s next opportunity to meet with Spectrum Health’s heart transplant team is on March 26, 2019.