A 19-year-old in Salt Lake City, Utah, needs a double-lung transplant to live, but was denied a place on the transplant list because he smoked pot on Thanksgiving.
Riley Hancey was an enthusiastic skier, runner and cyclist before he came down with a severe type of pneumonia, CBS46 reports. The illness left him with weak lungs and he had to be hospitalized. After 10 days, Hancey’s lungs collapsed and the doctors told him that he would need a double-lung transplant in order to survive.
However, Hancey tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the main intoxicant in marijuana. Mark Hancey, Riley’s father, said that due to these results, his son was turned down from getting on the transplant list at the University of Utah Hospital.
“Riley did smoke marijuana on Thanksgiving night with his friends,” he said.
It’s not like he’s a smoker for 30 years and (had) deteriorating lungs because of that.
Mark stressed that Riley had actually been drug-free for a year before he got sick.
Authorities at the hospital said that they could not address Riley’s case specifically, but issued a written statement saying that they follow international guidelines on transplants, while evaluating individual cases. “We do 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 statement read. Other factors include age and prior medical conditions, which may exclude patients from getting an organ transplant.
Mark added that a doctor told Riley, “You will die. You better get your affairs in order,” causing the patient to break down in tears.
Hancey’s family started looking at other options, and went across the country to find a hospital willing to perform the procedure. In February, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania agreed. Riley was flown to Philadelphia on medical transport. Twelve days ago, Riley received two donor lungs.
Mark said, “He looked so healthy. It made all the difference, and he still looks healthy. He’s still fighting, and he’s doing well.” Riley’s doctors are optimistic that he will be able to make a full recovery and return to his outdoor activities.