Hello and thanks for stopping in today. I’ll warn you right now, this isn’t my usual blog post, as the subject matter may be both controversial and sad. But I feel it needs to be said.

Some of you may recall that in March Brad and I took a trip to Philadelphia to attend The University of Pennsylvania Medical School Match Day. Our flight from California to Philly required a change of planes and a layover in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Flying Into Salt Lake City | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

While we waited for our connecting flight we started a conversation with a very friendly fellow who occupied the seat next to us in the lounge. As it turns out, the gentleman was also traveling to The University of Pennsylvania Medical School, but for far more sobering reasons. He was going to visit his 19-year-old son who was in Intensive Care, awaiting a double lung transplant. What was doubly ironic, his son had recently been transferred to UPenn Med from The University of Utah Medical Center, the very place where we recently spent a week by our own son’s bedside after he broke his back while skiing in Park City.

WHY I'VE BEEN M.I.A. | University of Utah Medical Center | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The man’s son had contracted a very rare and severe form of pneumonia over the Thanksgiving holiday that left him needing a double-lung transplant. However, incredulously, The University of Utah refused to put this otherwise very healthy 19-year-old on their transplant waiting list because they found traces of marijuana in his system. They told him to get ready to die. Hearing this his parents started frantically looking for a hospital that would agree to give him a lung transplant. That hospital turned out to be The University of Pennsylvania, one of the most experienced lung transplant programs in the world.

UP IN SMOKE | Riley Hancey being transported to UPenn Med | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Hearing this story from a distraught but hopeful father, I simply could not believe that a young person could be left to die because he had engaged in the smoking of pot on occasion!  I’m not a pot smoker, nor am I necessarily a pot advocate. But as the mother of 3 sons, 2 of whom are in college, I know that many of our youth in this day and age are using pot. To think that one of my sons might be denied a life saving treatment because he smoked marijuana would be simply unimaginable.

UP IN SMOKE | Riley Hancey & Parents | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Image Via

The good news is that shortly after we met and talked to Mark Hancey, his son Riley underwent lung transplant surgery at The University of Pennsylvania. The very sad news is that Riley Hancey died on April 24th of complications from that surgery. My heart goes out to his family & friends and to his father, the friendly, outgoing, high spirited man whose company we enjoyed in an airport lounge. I hope that this case will help bring attention to a hospital policy that in my view needs to be changed. Read more about Riley’s case here and watch this news report video below.

What do you think?

So There You Have It: UP IN SMOKE

Thanks so much for dropping in! 

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No blog post is truly complete without a word from you. I’d be so delighted if you’d leave a comment below. 

All opinions expressed in this post are my own. Unless otherwise noted, all photos are the original property of Celia Becker @ www.AfterOrangeCounty.com and may not be reproduced without specific permission.



    Although I can understand why the father is distraught and angry, I’m also reasonably sure that there are reasons for the hospital’s decision that we know nothing about. I find it really hard to believe that traces of pot in his system was the sole reason for their decision. They probably knew–among a great number of other things–that the boy would have a far greater chance of survival at a hospital known for its lung transplants. I hope that by sending the boy away, they saved his life. I’m sure that’s what everyone else is also hoping, as well.

  • Hi Kristine, thanks for your very thoughtful and reasonably comment. It does make sense that there surely were lots of things we don’t know. And yes, UPenn does hundreds more lung transplants a year than Un of Utah. Unfortunately Riley died last week of complications from the transplant that he did receive. Very sad any way you look at it.

  • classiccasualhome

    Wow, Celia, this is very tragic for Riley’s family. Reminds us to cherish the ones we love.

  • Such a heart-wrenching story. Thank you for sharing. My thoughts go out to the family as they’ve had to deal with such a traumatic experience on so many levels. This story directly connected with me and, unfortunately, I can partly relate with the frustration, anger and other waves of emotion when dealing with the medical profession and the news of hearing your loved one isn’t going to make it. I don’t have children but I would imagine that losing a child must be the most tragic thing to endure as a parent. My heart goes out to the family….

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Yes, Vanessa, I know you can truly relate. I’m just so glad you had a happy outcome. Imagine if you had hospital politics working against you. Very scary!

  • So very true.

  • Cookie Mom

    I think you have to remember that to receive a lung transplant, some one else’s child/father/mother/sister/brother has to die. This means that transplant recipients are not taken lightly and many, many criteria must be considered.

    My brother has a friend on the heart transplant list who has recently taken to social media to complain that “THEY” meaning the medical professionals, will not consider him until he stops riding motorcycles and sells the ones he has. Most of his audience think this is horribly unfair. Yet, again, someone will have to DIE, possibly from an accident, in order for him to receive this. Should there not be some expectation of protection of a valuable, rare, costly resource? We insure jewelry, houses, etc, why are lifesaving, life giving organs appreciated any less?

    While I grieve for any parent who has lost a child, I think that we often forget the price that is paid by others when transplants are performed.

  • Thank you for your very thoughtful comment. Yes, as hard as it is for one parent, there is another family on the other side of the equation. And you are so correct in saying that the donor family should be respected as well. And you are also correct in saying that donor organs should go to the most qualified recipient who has the best chance of survival. Such a difficult scinario all the way around.