Transplant patients in need of vaccine

Posted at 10:19 PM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 22:21:37-05

NAPLES, FLA — After more than 20 years of marital bliss, Krista Starace says she and her husband Mike, know a thing or two about loving "in sickness and in health."

"I had known for quite a few years that I needed a kidney transplant," she said,

And in July of 2019, her husband came through.

"I was then lucky enough to have my husband be tested and he was a match which is not that common," she said.

She says recovery was difficult, but she was getting through it as best she could, and then March 2020 hit.

"I was about eight months post-transplant and our world was shaken," she said.

And since the pandemic started, Her entire family has been in quarantine, to protect her and her husband.

"When you're an organ transplant recipient you are immunosuppressed, similar to how a cancer patient would be, but we are suppressed with our t-cells and our b-cells because the body cannot recognize that new foreign kidney," she said.

Should she get COVID-19 and survive, Starace says she'd still face some major health issues.

"I might not die from COVID, but I'm gonna lose this transplant that my husband selflessly donated to me, and then I'll be on dialysis," she said.

She, like so many others in her shoes, qualifies for a vaccine under an executive order from the governor.

And yet whether they try to sign up at a nearby Publix or even on the state's new vaccine pre-registration site, they're being told to wait.

"And it does list that we can get this vaccine if you're compromised with an organ transplant or other issues, which I have several other issues," she said.

And to add insult to injury, Starace says she's had to watch as friends in her home state of New Jersey got their shots.

"Then I had a couple of friends call who maybe had high blood pressure or maybe they were defined with obesity. And they were under the age of 40 and they also received the vaccine," she said.

Now, she's now writing to state leaders and asking for help.

"I'm all for vaccinating seniors and people over 65 because the statistics do show they are high risk, but if they look at the data and statistics for organ transplant recipients, we're 20 percent more likely to die from COVID-19 than someone over the age of 75," she said.

And as she waits, she says she'll continue to speak up for herself and others like her.

"There are tons of young people, not only organ transplant recipients but dialysis patients. Also, kidney donors are now at risk because they only have one kidney, and they might have other underlying issues. So, I thought it was important to speak out for other people," she said.

FOX 4 did speak with an aide for State Representative Mike Giallombardo Friday.

She told me that hospitals should be allowing people to fall into that category to get a vaccine, but said it's likely hospitals right now have either run out or are saving their supply for "second dose" shots.