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Cleveland Clinic cancels Eastlake man’s kidney transplant surgery because donor not vaccinated

Mike Ganim Eastlake Kidney Transplant
Posted at 5:50 PM, Oct 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-12 18:55:43-04

CLEVELAND — A local couple is left with pain and confusion after they said a kidney transplant surgery has been cancelled by the Cleveland Clinic.

You might remember, the clinic announced a new policy that both the donor and the patient need to have the COVID-19 vaccine before transplants take place at the clinic.

RELATED: Cleveland Clinic and UH requiring transplant patients to be vaccinated

The announcement caused some confusion and concern for 52-year-old Mike Ganim and his wife Debi regarding his upcoming kidney transplant surgery.

The couple said surgery plans were going well at Cleveland Clinic, until last Friday when the couple told News 5 the clinic put the surgery on hold because the donor, Sue George, who is a family friend, was not vaccinated.

Then today, both the Ganims and George said they got a call stating the surgery has now been canceled altogether.

George said she is very sad and very disappointed.

“We have someone who needs a kidney. We have someone who’s got one—1 in 100,000—I’m a match. How are we going to do this?” George said.

According to George, the clinic told her it was going to stand firm on its vaccination stance.

However, the Ganims and George were under the impression that the vaccine mandate wasn’t supposed to go into effect until Nov. 1, so they questioned why is Wednesday’s surgery was canceled.

Cleveland Clinic said it’s striving “to minimize risk, and vaccination is an important component to ensure” safety. If transplants are using living donors, the clinic said the mandate is active now. The Nov. 1 deadline is for deceased donors.

Cleveland Clinic issued the following statement regarding transplants and vaccination:

The health and safety of our patients is our top priority. Cleveland Clinic has recently developed safety protocols for solid organ transplantation that require COVID-19 vaccination to be an active transplant candidate or living donor. Vaccination is particularly important in these patients for their safety. Living donation for organ transplantation has been a life-saving treatment, but it is not without risks to the donor. For the living donor, reducing the risk of a COVID-19 infection around the time of their surgery and recovery is crucial. We continually strive to minimize risk to our living donors, and vaccination is an important component to ensure the safest approach and optimal outcomes for donors.

For the transplant candidate, in addition to a major operation, medications taken after an organ transplant weaken a person’s immune response. Serious complications of COVID-19 are most likely to develop in those individuals who have weakened immune systems, as their body has a reduced ability to fight and recover from infections. The FDA-authorized vaccines have been determined to be safe and effective and are the best way to prevent severe illness and death from COVID-19.

For organ transplantation using a living donor, which involves the living donor undergoing a scheduled surgery, we are requiring COVID-19 vaccination for both donor and recipient before we can proceed with the surgery, for the safety of both.

For organ transplantation from a deceased donor, patients currently on the waiting list have until November 1st to meet the Cleveland Clinic COVID-19 safety protocol. If patients waiting for an organ from a deceased donor are not vaccinated after 11/1, they will be made inactive on the UNOS waiting list.

The vaccination is to prevent severe illness or death from COVID-19. To date, we have not removed anyone from the transplant waiting list because they were not vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Debi Ganim told News 5 on the phone that she is devastated by the news. And George, she just wants Mike to get healthy soon.

"We have one goal here and that’s to get Mike a kidney. So, it may come down to looking for another donor," George said.

In our original story, George said she would donate a kidney, but was firm in saying she would not be getting vaccinated. Since then, a number of people have come forward to ask if they can be tested to donate a kidney. If you are interested in learning more about organ donation, CLICK HERE.

RELATED: Eastlake man's kidney transplant put on hold due to Cleveland Clinic's new vaccination policy

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