Denied

April 5, 2017
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Memories of Riley Hancey’s life line the walls of his room at the Penn Transplant Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. In one picture, a strong and lanky Riley wears a life jacket while paddleboarding, his blonde hair falling past his ears. In another, he’s standing in front of a whitewater raft. The caption reads: “Only a river gonna make things right.” There he is in another image kicking back on a ski slope, looking right at home sitting on a mountain bench, his skis propped up in the snow. Prayer flags hang near the photos, along with crayon-colored pictures that his sister’s elementary-school students drew, an effort to brighten up his corner of the cardiovascular intensive care unit.

This is where Riley has been for five weeks, watching Spaceballs and maybe a few too many episodes of My Name Is Earl while his parents and siblings rotate through, watching him teeter near death while tethered to the ECMO life support machine pumping blood through his frail body.

Riley wasn’t in his room on this day because he was on an operating table, having his scarred lungs removed and replaced with a new pair. It was his only chance at survival, and it could have come a lot sooner if he hadn’t been rejected by another hospital’s transplant team because he’d smoked pot.

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Image: By http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/2b/1f/8c4f72504af8cb77985c2280417e.jpgGallery: http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/L0060508.html, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36214645

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