A 19-year-old Utah man's family said he was rejected from receiving a life-saving lung transplant because he smoked marijuana once in the last year.
Riley Hancey was a normal, healthy young adult who enjoyed skiing, river running and riding his bike, until he was suddenly hit with severe pneumonia just after Thanksgiving 2016 that collapsed his lungs and nearly killed him, reports KSL. Riley needed a double lung transplant to survive, but he was denied by the University of Utah Hospital after testing positive for THC.
"You will die," the doctor reportedly told Riley at the time, as his father, Mark Hancey, recounted to KSL. "You better get your affairs in order."
Riley, who had been drug-free for a year before falling ill, broke down in tears.
"Riley did smoke marijuana on Thanksgiving night with his friends," Mark explained. "It's not like he's a smoker for 30 years and [had] deteriorating lungs because of that."
Although the University of Utah Hospital said it could not comment specifically on Riley's situation, it wrote in a statement that the hospital does not "transplant organs in patients with active alcohol, tobacco or illicit drug use or dependencies until these issues are addressed, as these substances are contraindicated for a transplant."
"[The doctor] was willing to let him die over testing positive for marijuana," Mark told BuzzFeed. "This is what shocked me."
The Hancey family immediately began searching for a hospital willing to save Riley's life. In February, with time running out, they found hope at the University of Pennsylvania.
"I looked at Riley and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, this poor soul looks like death,'" Mark said.
Riley's double lung transplant on March 29 was successful, although the road to recovery is going to be a long one. He will need to remain in Philadelphia for several months as he builds up his strength and undergoes rehabilitation, while doctors will need to monitor his lungs to ensure his body does not try to reject them, notes BuzzFeed. So far, he has been doing well, his family said.
"You can't believe how good he looks," Mark told BuzzFeed the day after the surgery. "At some point I'm going to be able to hug my son, hold my son in my arms, and I can't wait."
Friends of the Hanceys have set up a crowdfunding page to help pay for the cost of Riley's medical procedures, as the family has been struggling to afford them. By April 13, the YouCaring page had raised more than $23,000 of the $50,000 goal.
"He's still fighting, and he's doing well," Mark said.