Doctors at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, told Lee and Chrissy Hicks, the adoptive parents of 14-year-old Yulia, that they would not be moving forward with the surgery because she has not received the COVID-19 vaccine.
"The hospital actually played semantics with us," Lee said. "When we probed them on the requirement to have the vaccine shot, they said it's not a requirement. It's actually a recommendation. But if you don't follow their 'recommendation,' then [Yulia] won't get the kidney transplant. So that makes it a requirement."
The couple, who adopted Yulia and her brother early last year, were aware of their daughter's rare genetic kidney disorder when they took her in, and upon her arrival in their home, immediately took her to Dukes to assess the situation.
"We didn't know how long it had been since she had been seen," Chrissy said. "She needed to go on dialysis basically immediately. Her kidneys, I think, were at 13 percent function or something when we got her."
Yulia began the dialysis at home in August 2021, only going to the hospital for occasional checkups. However, when the opportunity to receive a kidney transplant came along, the hospital refused to move forward.
The parents asked to have their daughter's COVID antibody level tested, as Yulia had already had the coronavirus and was "completely, 100 percent over it" in less than a day, but were shut down.
They also had their questions and concerns about the COVID vaccine completely dismissed by doctors at the hospital.
"They were almost draconian about the whole thing," Lee stated. "Basically, what they said [was] 'if you're not going to follow our recommendation, then you're not gonna get a kidney.'"
The adopted siblings had been bounced around between several homes for a few years before they were eventually taken in by Chrissy and Lee, who upon hearing of everything they had gone through, decided to adopt them "without hesitation."
The couple has since retained a lawyer, but they are hoping that the increased exposure of their story will help to save their daughter's life.
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