A young father has been kicked off the heart transplant list because he is refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
DJ Ferguson, a 31-year-old dad of two with a third baby on the way with his partner Heather, was at the top of the list for a heart transplant before he was booted from the list due to his refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
His father, David Ferguson, told CBS Boston that his son, who remains in the hospital in desperate need of a heart transplant, will not take the vaccine because it clashes with his principles.
“It’s kind of against his basic principles, he doesn’t believe in it. It’s a policy they are enforcing and so because he won’t get the shot, they took him off the list of a heart transplant,” Ferguson told the outlet.
“My son has gone to the edge of death to stick to his guns and he’s been pushed to the limit,” Ferguson said.
The hospital where the young dad is fighting for his life, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a Harvard Medical School teaching school, released a statement saying that getting a COVID-19 vaccine is just one of several requirements for patients to be eligible for a transplant.
“And like many other transplant programs in the United States – the COVID-19 vaccine is one of several vaccines and lifestyle behaviors required for transplant candidates in the Mass General Brigham system in order to create both the best chance for a successful operation and also the patient’s survival after transplantation,” Brigham and Women’s said.
DJ has been in the hospital since November when his lungs completely filled up with blood and fluid due to a hereditary heart issue, according to a GoFundMe set up by a friend for DJ and his family.
“We have had many conversations with the doctors, who confirmed that his heart COULD swell and go into severe crisis but they can’t guarantee anything and it’s a choice we will have to make if he wants to be listed,” wrote a member of DJ’s family on the GoFundMe page about how side effects of the vaccine might affect him.
The family member added that the nurses and doctors have been “nothing but compassionate and amazing to him.”
Dr. Arthur Caplan, who is head of medical ethics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told CBS Boston that being vaccinated is necessary because health care providers do not want to give one of a scarce number of organs to a patient only for them to die of COVID — or a cold.
“Post any transplant, kidney, heart whatever, your immune system is shut off,” Caplan said. “The flu could kill you, a cold could kill you, COVID could kill you. The organs are scarce, we are not going to distribute them to someone who has a poor chance of living when others who are vaccinated have a better chance post-surgery of surviving,” Caplan said.
Now, DJ’s family is considering what their next move should be. They are weighing whether to transfer him to a hospital that does not have a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, but he may not be in strong enough condition.
“We are aggressively pursuing all options, but we are running out of time,” Ferguson said. “I think my boy is fighting pretty damn courageously and he has integrity and principles he really believes in and that makes me respect him all the more.”
“It’s his body. It’s his choice,” his dad added.