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UCHealth requires transplant patient to get COVID-19 vaccine, Colorado state rep speaks out

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A Colorado Springs woman who is waiting on a life-saving kidney transplant is being taken off the transplant list at UCHealth.

Leilani Lutali has a willing donor, but both she and her potential donor are being taken off the list because they are both unvaccinated. 

Lutali has stage five kidney disease and is in desperate need of a transplant. She claims she has already had covid, but won't be getting vaccinated for religious reasons.

"I was the one that had to break the news to Leilani and we were just devastated that somebody could take her life away from her because of a vaccine," potential donor Jaimee Fougner told KRDO.

Fougner and Lutali met at a bible study in January. They immediately hit it off, with Fougner planning on saving Lutali's life with a kidney donation. But then, they got a letter in the mail from UCHealth on Sept. 28 telling them they were going to be taken off the list.

"It feels a little bit like my transplant is being held hostage and there's only one decision that I'm being left with," Lutali shared. "And there are other options that we could do, but there's just been a hard-line drawn."

Both Lutali and Fougner are passing on the shot because they don't approve of the way they believe the vaccines were developed.

Dan Weaver, a spokesperson with UCHealth, shared a statement with KRDO saying he couldn't comment on the specific case. Weaver did say transplant patients who contract COVID-19 face higher mortality rates.

"For those who test positive for COVID-19, the mortality death rate is about 1.6%. It’s even less if you consider the people who are infected but who don’t get tested or who are asymptomatic," Weaver said. "For transplant patients who contract COVID-19, the mortality rate ranges from about 20% to more than 30%."

As specific as this case got, Weaver linked to a study in the National Library of Medicine that found kidney transplants who contracted COVID-19 had a 21% mortality rate.

"This is why it is essential that both the recipient and the living donor be vaccinated and take other precautions prior to undergoing transplant surgery," Weaver said. "Surgeries may be postponed until patients take all required precautions in order to give them the best chance at positive outcomes."

Colorado State Rep. Tim Geitner shared the letter on social media, prompting a debate about transplant eligibility and vaccines. He posted a Facebook Live video Tuesday morning supporting them and questioning the policy since Lutali already has COVID antibodies after testing positive.

"It's frustrating when someone finds themselves in what could be an end-of-life situation, and this is the requirement," Geitner, a Republican from El Paso County representing House District 19 told KRDO. "Comply with this covid vaccine or best of luck. I don't think that that's a place where we want to be in the United States."

Geitner said the situation "brings great concern for many of us ... where based on your vaccination status with COVID, that you would actually be denied care." On Geitner's Twitter page, many users expressed agreement with UCHealth's requirement -- flip to his Facebook page, and many users claimed it was "discrimination" and "tyranny."

Weaver said transplant centers across the nation have specific requirements in place, including other vaccinations like "hepatitis B, MMR, and others." He added that "in almost all situations, transplant recipients and living donors at UCHealth are now required to be vaccinated against COVID-19." We're working to find out what other situations would exempt a patient from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

"I'm not going to change my mind," Lutali said. "I want a choice to be able to make as being a partner in my own health care."

Andrew McMillan

Andrew is the Digital Content Director for Learn more about Andrew here.

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Spencer Soicher

Spencer is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about him here.



  1. Another ignorant Republican politician putting self-promotion before public health. It’s clear that Rep. Tim Geitner doesn’t understand all the details about organ transplants. And why should he? He’s not a physician. He’s a politician, with a bachelors degree in business, apparently the business of self-promotion. Let the physicians run their business, which is the health and welfare of all their patients.

    1. And another ignorant comment by you. The lady has already had Covid and has antibodies. That is better than being vaccinated. Why dont you actually educate yourself before posting?

    2. Reality check, are you a real person, getting paid to spew the fake news media propoganda or are you a bot that is doing it?

    3. It is clear that when health care and physicians are paid by big pharma and threatened to lose their practices or licenses that they will say anything when if it goes against the value of another ones life and choices. Clearly UC Health is not for the patients but instead for their dollars.

  2. Do you understand the power you’re giving your government? It’s obvious that you really could care less because it falls under “illusion of safety”. Just wait… Just wait. Eventually the power you give to your government WILL come back to bite you! You’ll only have yourself and others that need government controlling their lives to blame.

    1. It is clear that Realitycheck has sold their soul to their democrat masters. All they ever do is just repeat what they hear on TV. Just spreading the propaganda and fear-mongering

  3. As reported by Senator Ron Johnson, telling the truth about the Fact that no vaccines in the US have been approved yet and this kind of evil is happening in out Health Care facilities. Are they just a ticking time bomb of law suits in the future? How can they claim to be about health and welfare of others and claim it is about science? Science is not and has never been cut and dry or without research and development. No vaccine has gone through any trials yet. None!!!

    1. So Ron Johnson was wrong. The FDA approval was for the “Brand name” of pfizers covid-19 shot. It is Comirnaty. People think it is different than the shot being given out. It is not, it is just the brand name and it is the same shot just not its long technical name. Kinda like every other drug out there, Viagra is the brand name… sildenafil is the actual drug. Synthroid is a brand name levothyroxine is the drug.
      The part that they are not sayign is Pfizers shot is only FDA approved for 16 and up. Many kepe saying it is approved for 12 and up when it is not. It has emergency use authorization for 12-15 but the FDA says they should NOT get the shot unless they are extremely high risk.

  4. So people don’t seem to mind being a part of trials. Usually they have to pay you to do this. Now they just pay hospitals, Doctors and business’s to run their studies all on you back and health. :
    From FDA:
    he safety was evaluated in approximately 22,000 Comirnaty and 22,000 placebo recipients 16 years of age and older. More than half of the vaccine and placebo recipients were followed for safety for at least four months after the second dose. After issuance of the EUA, participants were unblinded in a phased manner over a period of months to offer placebo participants Comirnaty. Overall, in blinded and unblinded follow-up, approximately 12,000 Comirnaty recipients have been followed for at least 6 months.

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