This woman needs a new heart, but hospital said she’ll have to fundraise $10,000 first

Hedda Martin, a Grand Rapids, Michigan, woman who needs a heart transplant, says she shared a letter from Spectrum Health saying she needs to fundraise $10,000 before she can be put on a list for the operation.
Hedda Martin, a Grand Rapids, Michigan, woman who needs a heart transplant, says she shared a letter from Spectrum Health saying she needs to fundraise $10,000 before she can be put on a list for the operation. Screenshot from GoFundMe

Hedda Martin needed a new heart — but before being put on the transplant list, the Michigan woman had to come up with $10,000.

In a Facebook post, Martin shared a letter from the Spectrum Health Richard Devos Heart and Lung Transplant Center, based in Grand Rapids, that said she was rejected as a heart transplant candidate because she didn’t have enough money, according to MLive.

Instead, the letter suggested that the 60-year-old should come up with $10,000 through a “fundraising effort,” MLive reported.

And now, following outrage about the letter, Martin has raised well over that original $10,000 goal.

Martin developed congestive heart failure after receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer in 2005 and has undergone “many medications and treatments” since, according to a GoFundMe page created by her family.

Earlier this month, she was admitted to the Spectrum Health Meijer Heart Center in Grand Rapids after her heart “deteriorated to life threatening condition,” the page says. She was told she’ll need a heart transplant, the GoFundMe says, but she has to raise $10,000 to cover the 20 percent copay for drugs so her body does not reject her new heart. If she raises the money, then she will be considered for the transplant list.

Drake surprises a 11-year-old girl waiting for a heart transplant at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, Ill.

“The transplant team does not want to ‘waste’ a vital organ if she cannot afford heart rejection drugs. Understandably,” the GoFundMe page continues. “However, they are not even willing to put her on the list knowing it would still give her time to raise money over a year or so through family. Because she needs the funding right away to qualify being put on the transplant list and not lose valuable time, we are asking for anything you may be able to afford.

“We need to get mom on the heart transplant list,” it continues. “She can go before the transplant team again on March 26, 2019.”

Martin’s story began to circulate online after incoming Democratic Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez tweeted the letter on Saturday.

Ocasio-Cortez, like many others, expressed frustration that a patient was told to “fundraise” money for a medical treatment.

Others corrected the congresswoman-elect from New York, who wrongly tweeted that the letter was from an insurance company.

Spectrum Health responded to the social media outrage with a statement on its website, explaining that “we thoughtfully review candidates for heart and lung transplant procedures with care and compassion, and these are often highly complex, difficult decisions.

“While it is always upsetting when we cannot provide a transplant, we have an obligation to ensure that transplants are successful and that donor organs will remain viable,” it reads. “ ... While our primary focus is the medical needs of the patient, the fact is that transplants require lifelong care and immunosuppression drugs, and therefore costs are sometimes a regrettable and unavoidable factor in the decision making process.

“We partner with our patients throughout their care and work closely with them to identify opportunities for financial assistance,” it continued. “Our clinical team has an ongoing dialogue with patients about their eligibility, holding frequent in-person meetings and inform patients in-person to ensure they fully understand their specific situation.”

And as the media spotlight on Martin’s letter grew, so did the donations to her GoFundMe page. As of Monday morning, the page has raised over $15,000 — now with a new goal of $20,000. One person even donated $5,000, while another gave $1,000, the page shows.

A friend for Martin said the woman “wants to live,” according to Fox17. Martin expressed that tenacity in a written statement to MLive.

“I will get better,” she wrote, “and I will fight to my last breath the injustice and greed in our healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.”

Americans raise around $650 million a year on about 250,000 GoFundMe pages to pay for medical expenses, according to Fortune.