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Medicaid guidelines limit mother's ability to get heart, liver transplants

By Rafael Sanchez

    Indianapolis, IN (WRTV) -- Brittney Eaton is no stranger to medical tubes and machines at her side.

About three years ago, Eaton was diagnosed with congestive heart failure after the birth of her third child. Since then, Eaton has been in and out of hospitals for treatments. She has missed many important milestones in her children's lives, like first days of school and putting them to bed.

"I want to be healthy for myself, but I want to get healthy for my kids," Eaton said. "It breaks my heart to talk to them -- 'When are you coming home?'"

Eaton recently learned that in addition to the problems with her heart, she also suffers from liver issues and will need transplants of both organs. St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, where Eaton was recently transferred from Methodist North Lake Hospital in Gary, is one of three transplant centers in Indiana, including Indiana University in Indianapolis and Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne. Although these hospitals perform critical organ services, none of them can help Eaton because they are not equipped to perform a heart and liver transplant.

The Gary native will have to leave the state for care, but Medicaid limits her ability to seek treatment outside of Indiana. The state insurance provider must first determine and verify why the procedure can’t be done within the state.

Medical centers in Missouri, Michigan, and Virginia can provide the double transplant, but they must first review her case and approve or deny her care.

Medicaid says they are open to considering the case, but they have to have a chance to review the request before they can make a decision.

According to the Indiana Donor Network, which advocates for organ donations in Indiana, 1,400 of the 115,000 people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant are in Indiana. The network says on average 22 people die each day because the organ they needed did not become available in time.

The network is encouraging people to become donors at IndianaDonorNetwork.org; they say one donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and heal up to 75 people through tissue donation.

As for Eaton, she is hoping for any assistance possible.

“Any kind of option that can help me," Eaton said. "If they can only provide half of the pricing [for] me and my family, try my best to do whatever we can to come up with the other half. Anything is better than nothing.”

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