Leilani Lutali was getting ready for life-saving surgery after her friend, Jaimee Fougner, offered to donate a kidney to her. Lutali and Fougner both live in Colorado; they met at Bible study and when Fougner learned that her new friend was in stage-5 renal failure, she gave her the gift of new life.
At least, she tried to.
Just months before the surgery was to happen, the two women received a letter from UCHealth (University of Colorado Hospital), informing them that unless they were vaccinated against Covid-19, Lutali would be taken off the waiting list for transplant surgery.
The letter described a relatively new policy for UCHealth; as late as August, there was no COVID vaccine mandate in place. By the end of September, the situation had changed and the two women were being called “non-compliant.” They now have 30 days to change their minds about getting vaccinated.
Neither of them intends to do so. Fougner told CBS Denver that she refuses to be vaccinated for religious reasons, Lutali because she thinks there are too many unknowns about the vaccine and its possible side-effects.
For its part, UCHealth insists that its policy is to the benefit of its patients.
“For transplant patients who contract COVID-19, the mortality rate ranges from about 20% to more than 30%,” it writes in a statement. “This shows the extreme risk that COVID-19 poses to transplant patients after their surgeries.”
While it is true that many transplant centers across the United States have other requirements in place to protect their patients, such as demanding lifestyle changes, such measures are not in the class of a sweeping vaccine mandate.
“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,” said Lutali. “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.”
“Here I am, willing to be a direct donor to her. It does not affect any other patient on the transplant list,” said Fougner. “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?”
The women haven’t been able to find a hospital in Colorado that will conduct the transplant surgery unless they are unvaccinated. They are now looking into their options in other states.