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Duke University surgeons are refusing a 14-year-old girl a kidney transplant because she has not received the Covid shot
She has already had Covid and recovered
At 14, Yulia Hicks has already had more than her share of bad luck.
Brought from Ukraine to the United States in December 2018, she was given up by her first two adoptive families before Chrissy and Lee Hicks adopted her in 2021. She suffers from Senior Loken Syndrome, a genetic condition that is destroying her kidneys and eyes and will soon force her to have a kidney transplant.
Now Yulia is facing another crisis, this one seemingly caused by her own physicians.
Doctors at Duke University, where Yulia has been awaiting a kidney transplant, have told her parents they will not give her a new kidney unless she is vaccinated against Covid - even though Yulia has already had and recovered from Covid.
To pressure Chrissy and Lee into giving Yulia a Covid shot, the physicians have overestimated the efficacy of the jabs. On a Nov. 29 phone call that Yulia’s parents recorded, Dr. Dan Chang, an pediatric infectious disease specialist, claimed that the shots “prevent severe disease and death.”
Dr. Chang’s statement is inaccurate - data from Australia, for example, show that more than 90 percent of Covid deaths occur in vaccinated people.
Dr. Chang also told Yulia’s parents that the Covid jabs would help Yulia even though she had already had Covid. “The natural immunity is not as good as if you had natural immunity plus vaccination,” he said.
In fact, a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine in July that examined Covid infections in more than 2 million people in Qatar cast doubt on the effectiveness of so-called “hybrid immunity” against the Omicron variant:
On the call, Dr. Chang and Dr. Eileen Tsai Chambers, a pediatric kidney specialist at Duke, acknowledged that their hospital had seen no deaths or severe illness in unvaccinated patients following kidney transplants. But they said they had heard of deaths at other transplant centers.
Dr. Chang also pointed to “hospitalization costs” if Yulia developed a Covid-related fever after receiving a transplant as a reason to require vaccination.
Dr. Chambers said Duke was not forcing Yulia to receive a Covid shot, only recommending it. She then added, “if you don’t follow these things, Yulia can’t be a transplant candidate here.”
Lee Hicks said he felt that the physicians knew a Covid jab would offer Yulia at best marginal benefits and were simply angry that he and his wife had disagreed with them.
“You’re going to do what they say, or you’re not going to get this life-saving treatment,” he said. “It’s like they’ve forgotten sight of that’s the most important thing, which is a girl’s life.”
Drs. Chang and Chambers did not return emails for comment.
The Nov. 29 phone call was polite. But at this point, the relationship between Duke and the Hicks family appears irreparable. Lee and Chrissy are now seeking a transplant center that will not require Yulia to receive the Covid shot.
Yulia is not in imminent danger. But receiving a transplant outside North Carolina, where she lives, will add to the expense and complexity of the transplant, further disrupt her life and potentially add to the risks she faces by interfering with her routine of home dialysis. The Hickses - who have eight biological and three adopted children - are now trying to raise $25,000 to help pay for the additional expenses of traveling for a transplant.
“We were hoping that they would come around,” Chrissy Hicks said. “But from the beginning they have pushed it on us.”
Despite this new challenge, Yulia remains optimistic, Chrissy said.
“She’s the happiest child I’ve ever met in my life,” she said.
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