A 31-year-old father of two has undergone open heart surgery to fit a pump that will only keep him alive another five years after he was refused a transplant because he would not get vaccinated against COVID-19.
DJ Ferguson underwent a procedure to fit a mechanical heart pump, called a left ventricular assist device, which will last for up to five years.
The device was fitted at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, where Ferguson was admitted in November, suffering from a hereditary heart condition that causes his lungs and heart to fill with blood and fluid.
On Wednesday night his mother, Tracey; father, David; and girlfriend Heather Dawson – the mother of his children – told Fox News of their devastation at the hospital’s refusal to grant Ferguson a transplant.
David Ferguson said that the grueling open heart surgery was a last resort, and a poor alternative to a transplant.
‘He had to get the vaccine in order to get that transplant,’ he told Tucker Carlson.
‘His heart deteriorated so much, so quickly, that they had to resort to open heart surgery and doing the L-VAD (left ventricular assist device) mechanical pump,’ he explained.
‘So now my boy has a pump – he’s in recovery. He went through seven hours of surgery.’
His mother, from Mendon, 30 miles southwest of Boston, said: ‘We are devastated by the news.
‘He just got out of open heart surgery yesterday, he had to have a valve put in place.
‘Now he is in need of a transplant.
‘So I find myself – you know, you are sad.’
Tucker Carlson on Wednesday night spoke to Heather Dawson, the girlfriend of DJ Ferguson, and Ferguson’s parents Tracey and David
Ferguson, 31, underwent open heart surgery on Tuesday, his family said
Ferguson is seen with his girlfriend Heather Dawson, the mother of his two children
DJ Ferguson, 31 (pictured) has a hereditary heart condition that causes his lungs and heart to fill with blood and fluid without intervention from intravenous medication. He has been denied a life-saving heart transplant because he refuses to get vaccinated against COVID-19
Factors that can disqualify patients from organ transplants
- Not being vaccinated for COVID
- Untreated psychological disorders, like schizophrenia, that could prevent the patient from properly caring for themselves after the transplant
- A high risk of abusing alcohol after the transplant
- Active cigarette smoking within six months of the prospective transplant
- Substance abuse
- Severe local or systemic infection
- Cancer in the last 5 years except localized skin (not melanoma) or stage I breast or prostate
- Age appropriateness (for example, heart transplant recipients should not be more than 70 years of age, according to John Hopkins University guidelines)
- Inability to make a strong commitment to transplantation
- Insulin-requiring diabetes mellitus with end-organ damage
- Irreversible renal failure
- Acute pulmonary thromboembolism
- Inability to pay for transplant or post-operative care
Asked by Carlson how she felt, she replied: ‘Where this leaves me?
‘It leaves me just hopeful right now.’
Earlier, she told ABC News her son was not an anti-vaxxer.
‘He’s not an anti-vaxxer. He has all of his vaccines, and he’s an informed patient who is concerned because of his current cardiac crisis,’ she said.
Her son is concerned about the potential for the COVID vaccine to cause an inflammation of the heart. Doctors say, however, that the risk of getting infected by COVID is far more serious than any temporary risk of heart inflammation.
Furthermore, after a transplant the immune system is essentially shut off, to prevent the transplanted organ being rejected – rendering the patient extremely vulnerable.
David Ferguson said their son was an anti-vaxxer.
He said previously that getting vaccinated is ‘kind of against his basic principles’ and that his son ‘doesn’t believe in it.’
‘I think my boy is fighting pretty damn courageously and he has integrity and principles he really believes in – and that makes me respect him all the more,’ he said.
‘It’s his body. It’s his choice.’
Ferguson’s girlfriend Heather Dawson said on Wednesday the ordeal had been ‘terrible’.
‘It sucks because his nurses are amazing,’ she told Carlson.
‘They have been amazing to him. His doctors have been amazing to him.
Boston Brigham and Women’s Hospital (pictured) removed Ferguson from its donor list because has not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine and said in a statement that their aim is to ‘create both the best chance for successful operation and also the patient’s survival after transplantation’
‘But having that dangled over her head at the very last minute, after he had been through all the testing, after he received his letter saying that he was accepted onto the transplant list…
‘It is just so disheartening that they would hang out over his head right the last moment.’
The hospital said it removed Ferguson from the donor list because all transplant recipients needed to be vaccinated in order to ‘create both the best chance for successful operation and also the patient’s survival after transplantation.’
Dawson, in an appeal for funds to support the family, said Ferguson was already ‘high risk’ for the vaccine due to his swollen heart.
‘He is at extremely high risk of sudden death if it does,’ she wrote, of fears his heart could swell. ‘We are literally in a corner right now. This is extremely time sensitive.
‘We’re being pressured to choose a shot that could kill him.
‘This is not just a political issue. People need to have a choice!’ she said.
Ferguson (right) is pictured with his girlfriend, Heather Dawson, and their two children
Ferguson’s family is considering moving him to another hospital, but he may not be able to be moved in his condition
‘After almost 50 days in the hospital with no answers, DJ was finally seen by some of the best cardiac specialists last week,’ Dawson updated on GoFundMe.
‘After running countless tests and scans we learned that DJ is now in severe end stage heart failure, meaning that he is going to need a heart transplant to live.
‘On top of the heart failure his heart is extremely swollen and dilated. Which puts him at high risk of cardiac arrest,’ she said.
‘The bad news is that the transplant board will not actively list him due to his vaccination status.’
The hospital, which has a list of protocols for transplant candidates that includes a ban on lifestyle choices like smoking and alcohol, said requiring the COVID-19 vaccine is common at many medical center’s throughout the country.
The mortality rate for transplant recipients who fall ill with COVID is more than 20 percent, according to UCHealth.
Dr. Arthur Caplan, the head of Medical Ethics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told CBS Boston that vaccination is a requirement for transplants because, after receiving a new organ, patients’ immune systems are essentially switched off.
‘The flu could kill you, a cold could kill you, COVID could kill you,’ he said.
‘The organs are scarce, we are not going to distribute them to someone who has a poor chance of living when others who are vaccinated have a better chance post-surgery of surviving.’
Ferguson is not the first patient in need of a transplant who has been denied due to their vaccination status.
In October, Leilani Lutali of Colorado, 56, was taken off the transplant list at a University of Colorado Health hospital because she and her prospective kidney donor Jaimee Fougner, 45, had not received the COVID-19 vaccine.
In October, Leilani Lutali of Colorado, 56 (pictured), was taken off the transplant list at a University of Colorado Health hospital because she and her prospective kidney donor hadn’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccine
The pair were placed on a list for those who are ‘non-compliant by not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.’
Lutali, a Born-again Christian, has refused to get inoculated because of the use of stem cells in developing some vaccines.
‘As a Christian, I can’t support anything that has to do with abortion of babies, and the sanctity of life for me is precious,’ Lutali said.
Fougner, Lutali’s friend and potential donor, has also denied the vaccine citing religious reasons.
Cells taken from elective abortions have been used to develop effective vaccines since the 1960s including current vaccines for rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis A, and shingles.
None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain aborted fetal cells, as some social media users have been falsely claiming.
But they did utilize fetal cell lines in their development.
Ohio man Mike Ganin, who is vaccinated against COVID, was denied a kidney transplant last October because his donor hadn’t received her shot.
‘I don’t want to get the vaccine. I’ve got reasons — medical, religious, and also freedom,’ the donor, Sue George, told WKYC.
UCHealth, which operates hospitals and urgent care facilities throughout Colorado, said that the COVID-19 vaccine was one of several measures patients needed to take to give the organ the best chance of not being rejected.
‘An organ transplant is a unique surgery that leads to a lifetime of specialized management to ensure an organ is not rejected, which can lead to serious complications, the need for a subsequent transplant surgery, or even death,’ UCHealth told The Post at the time.
‘Physicians must consider the short and long-term health risks for patients as they consider whether to recommend an organ transplant.’