A teenager living in North Carolina has been denied life-saving surgery by Duke University Hospital officials because she is unvaccinated against COVID-19, leaving her adoptive family frantically searching for alternative treatment options.
Yulia Hicks, who suffers from a rare genetic kidney condition called Senior Loken syndrome, was adopted from Ukraine nearly two years ago by her parents Chrissy and Lee Hicks of North Carolina.
Senior Loken syndrome (SLS) is rare and mainly affects the kidneys and eyes and causes nephronophthisis, a disease that slowly impairs the function of the kidneys, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center.
Just 1,000 individuals in the United States are estimated to have SLS. Symptoms include chronic kidney disease, delays in motor or mental development, hypertension, and visual impairments, among others.
The teenager requires a transplant, according to her family. However, they claim that she was told on Nov. 11 that she is not eligible to be placed on Duke’s waiting list because she is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Speaking to Fox News on Friday, Chrissy Hicks said that hospital staff have shown “no sympathy whatsoever,” regarding her adoptive daughter’s urgent situation and have instead stated that she needs to have the shot if she wants to receive life-saving surgery.
“It’s just strong-arming us: give her the vaccine, and you’ll get the transplant,” Hicks said.
The adoptive mother also explained that her daughter has previously been infected with COVID-19, which she believes has granted her natural immunity.
Multiple studies have shown that natural immunity grants far superior protection against COVID-19 when compared to the protection provided by vaccines, although some scientists and officials within the Biden administration disagree.
However, Hicks told Fox on Friday that hospital officials had directed her to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations regarding kidney transplants and COVID-19 vaccines, stating that the surgery would be too risky if Yulia was not up to date with her shots.
“They said the CDC recommendation had been updated at the end of October, and they had to go by the recommendation, and if she didn’t get the vaccine she wouldn’t be getting a transplant at Duke,” Hicks said.
Hicks recorded alleged conversations with the hospital in which health officials explained that the virus has now mutated, meaning that Yulia’s natural immunity “is not as good as if you had natural immunity, plus vaccination.”
“We’ve been dealing with these doctors from Duke for at least two years because our dialysis goes through Duke as well. We do it at home for Yulia,” the mother explained. “But the two doctors who denied us because of the COVID vaccine, we saw them for an eight-hour workup, and that’s when they told us it was going to be required. Then we kind of pushed back a little bit. They put her in front of the committee on November 10th.”
However, their daughter was rejected “solely because of the vaccine,” according to her adoptive parents.
According to its official website, Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center is “ranked among the top children’s hospitals nationally in nine specialties by U.S. News & World Report and provides care for thousands of pediatric patients every year.”
Chrissy and Lee Hicks, who are parents to 11 children in total, three of which are adopted, said they have retained a lawyer to help them fight the decision by Duke Hospital and are now searching for a medical center that will perform the life-saving transplant on their daughter without requiring that she be vaccinated against COVID-19.
In a statement to Fox News, Duke Health officials said “our hearts go out to all families coping with the serious illness of a loved one” and that it is “committed to making organ transplant accessible to as many eligible patients as possible,” but declined to comment on the individual case.
“We have provided more than 10,000 organ transplants since 1965. Eligibility for organ transplant is a complex medical determination informed by many health factors to ensure the best outcomes,” health officials said. “These determinations are made in consultation with families and medical professionals and follow the latest medical evidence and regulatory guidelines that all transplant centers must follow.”
The Epoch Times has contacted Duke Hospital for comment.
Reporting from The Epoch Times.