Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) deactivated a 23-year-old woman from the transplant list, where she had been waiting since June 2018 on dialysis for a lifesaving kidney transplant, because she isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19. The woman, Codie Samuelson, now has six months to get listed for the transplant at another hospital or be removed entirely.
Samuelson was born with autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD) and diagnosed at two months old with end-stage kidney failure. Samuelson’s father was the first to give her a kidney, but her body rejected it; it was the kidney from her mother that took, ultimately lasting her 18 years. Then, three and a half years ago, Samuelson’s body began rejecting that kidney. Samuelson has been on dialysis three times a week since then. Though she is considered high-risk for COVID-19, Samuelson decided not to get the vaccine based on the advice of three of her nurses and her own medical concerns.
In an interview with The Daily Wire, Samuelson and her mother, Christy, explained that the dialysis process has been going well but is very exhausting. Even as she endures the taxing effect of the life-sustaining treatment, which takes around four or more hours, Samuelson manages some days to work as a DoorDash driver.
Christy says that they’re confident the setback is a part of God’s greater plan.
“I just say that everything is going to happen in God’s time – He’s going to be doing things the way He needs to in his time,” asserted Christy.
VUMC spokesman Craig Boerner confirmed that unvaccinated individuals may not be eligible for a transplant. He said that this requirement was just one of many for transplant patients. Boerner also indicated that an exemption process was in place for those with medical, religious, or personal objections to the vaccine.
“We are requiring COVID vaccination as an eligibility for adult solid organ transplant,” VUMC said last month in an official statement on the matter. “However, we do have an exemption process in place for medical or religious/strongly held personal beliefs.”
Yet, the Samuelson family told The Daily Wire that VUMC never offered them the exemption process as an option.
“If there’s a chance we have an exemption, we can apply for it. We’ve already spoken with the transplant surgeon and he was adamant that she [Codie] needed the vaccine,” explained Christy. “Who would be the one to approve [the exemption]? If it’s the surgeon we spoke with, we know that he was completely adamant about having the vaccination.”
The Daily Wire also asked VUMC what would occur if the donor or recipient experiences adverse effects to the vaccine, such as myocarditis. VUMC didn’t respond to our follow-up question by press time.
There are more than 90,200 individuals awaiting kidney transplants nationwide, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The HRSA estimated that patients wait an average of four to five years for an organ transplant.
VUMC isn’t the only hospital system to remove patients from the organ transplant list recently. The University of Colorado Health (UCHealth) system denied a kidney transplant to at least one patient last month, Leilani Lutali, for refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Lutali’s friend, Jaimee Fougner, would have been the donor. Both Lutali and Fougner refused the vaccine based on religious concerns.
Tennessee Stands, a nonprofit focused on conservative activism, first publicized Samuelson’s story as told by Codie’s mother, Christy:
My daughter’s name is Codie and she is 23 years old. She was born with ARPKD (autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease) and was diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure at the young age of 2 months old. At that time, she had a feeding tube for failure to thrive and several medications and injections became our daily routine. Her entire life has been about medications, doctor appointments, and monthly lab work. All while being immunosuppressed. She received her first ‘gift of life’ from her dad at age 17 months. This transplant was considered a success although the kidney only lasted 5 days due to complications of blood clots. Her 2nd ‘gift of life’ came from me (her mother) 14 months later. We have been blessed that the transplant lasted for 18 years before going into rejection 3 1/2 years ago. She was then put on the transplant waiting list and had a fistula placed into her arm. Thus dialysis began, she is currently going 3 days a week.
With all the controversy of Covid-19 and the vaccines that may or may not be more harmful than beneficial to an immunosuppressed individual. After 3 of her nurses even warned against taking the injection, and her own concerns, Vanderbilt hospital has deactivated her from the transplant list because she has chosen not to take the jab. Instead [of] helping someone to have a chance to live, they have turned her away from the chance to receive another ‘gift of life.’ Does that sound fair in any way? I don’t think so.
We are looking for anyone that might be able to help us fight this fight. I don’t know where to even start. Thank you for reading and God bless.
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Since their story went public, Christy reported that they’ve received “a lot” of messages from strangers across the country offering to give Codie one of their kidneys.
“We have people willing to go to their personal doctors so they can get in contact with our dialysis clinic to see if they’re a match,” shared Christy. “Maybe this is God’s way of putting us in contact with them. Maybe we needed to be tested.”
Codie may have willing and ready matches out there – but it’s a waiting game. For now, she’ll continue treatments until her clinic grants her a referral to another hospital.
Corinne Murdock is a reporter for The Daily Wire and AZ Free News. Have something you think the mainstream media won’t cover? Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.