‘I will die free’: Unvaccinated Burke County man denied kidney transplant by hospital

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. — A Burke County man’s decision not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine means he also won’t be getting a much-needed kidney transplant.

Chad Carswell, a double amputee who has undergone several major surgeries on his heart, now faces a different battle. Carswell told Channel 9′s Dave Faherty his kidney is only operating at about 4%.

Dialysis three times a week keeps him going, but the solution is temporary.

“Without (a kidney transplant) there’s no telling how much longer I’ll be here, I have to have a kidney to prolong my life,” he said.

Carswell said he has received all kinds of tests and scans from Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem in hopes of getting a kidney transplant. Instead, Carswell learned that he and anyone who wanted to donate a kidney would be required to be vaccinated before the surgery.

He said friends and local businesses raised money to fund the transplant. More than 100 people, Carswell said, have offered to donate a kidney, but because of his vaccination status, that can’t happen.

Carswell said he won’t get the vaccine and he is willing to die over it.

“You will not change your mind?” Faherty asked.

“No sir, I was born free. I will die free. I’m not changing my mind,” Carswell said. “I’ve had conversations with my family and everybody who is close to me and they know where I stand and there will not be a situation that occurs where I’ll change my mind on this topic.”

He said doctors and nurses at the hospital spoke with him about getting the vaccine, but he believes it is a choice and he doesn’t believe someone should be forced to get one.

“That’s when I politely told him there’s nothing to talk about,” Carswell said. “It wasn’t up for debate, I wasn’t getting it. And he told me ‘You know you’ll die if you don’t get it,’ and I told him I’m willing to die.”

In a statement to Channel 9, the hospital said the policy is in place to provide protection for the patient, because transplant patients are at high risk for severe illness if they don’t have pre-existing immunity.

“Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s policy follows the current standard of care in the United States, which is to vaccinate all patients on waiting lists or being evaluated for transplant,” the hospital said.

“We understand that some patients may not wish to be vaccinated,” the statement continued. “In this case, patients can opt to be evaluated at another transplant center.”

Carswell said he is looking at other hospitals in the Carolinas and beyond to see if they’ll perform the surgery.

(WATCH BELOW: Hospital denies heart transplant to unvaccinated man)