Bobby Williams spent the first week living in Polk City, Florida, in the intensive care unit at the hospital in his new city while friends unloaded his moving truck.
When Williams and his wife, Karen, agreed to return to Florida from Tennessee for work in 2016, they didn’t know he had end-stage liver disease. In fact, it wasn’t until the actual move that Williams started feeling so bad that he went to the emergency room.
After months of being treated locally, Williams’ doctors referred him to Tampa General Hospital, one of the busiest organ transplant hospitals in the country, to discuss the need for a liver transplant.
The transplant coordinator at Tampa General put Williams in touch with the National Foundation for Transplants (NFT), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that helps transplant patients overcome financial obstacles by providing financial assistance through contributions donated to the organization from generous supporters. NFT has generated nearly $82 million to assist patients all over the United States in the last 35 years. Even with private insurance, transplants can be cost prohibitive to many patients. According to Milliman Research Report 2017, the average liver transplant costs approximately $812,000, not including pre- and post-operative medication or potential time off from work due to surgery.
NFT provides patients a better option for funding assistance when compared to GoFundMe, primarily because donations are not taxable to the patient, are tax-deductible for the donor and do not minimize or jeopardize a patient’s Medicaid or Medicare benefits in any way.
Williams, who has three children and one grandchild with Karen, has served others his entire life, first as a middle school teacher and high school soccer coach, before being called into full-time ministry with Children’s Bible Ministries as a leader for their year-round camp. So, when he realized he needed $44,000, he was hesitant to ask for help.
“We’ve already asked people for money for our ministry over the years, so it was an emotional battle, how to put that financial “ask” out there. We didn’t want to ask for more money, but we needed help,” said Karen.
After prayer and many discussions, Karen put one notification on her Facebook page about Williams’ medical needs with a link to the National Foundation for Transplants donation page. In less than four weeks, the organization received an overwhelming response from the community. As a result, NFT was able to provide Williams with a grant to meet his pre and post-transplant expenses.
“Bobby and Karen’s story touched so many in the community. The outpouring of support was extremely favorable, allowing the Williamses to focus on healing and not worry about finances – giving them hope and a second chance at life,” said Michelle Gilchrist, president and CEO of National Foundation for Transplants.
“However, the Williams’ experience is just one of many cases we encounter every day. For many who seek our support, their need is much greater. Some require as much as $200,000 to be listed and often they are unable to pay such a large sum of money on their own.”
“Our long-term goal is to develop a national fund that is consistently increasing as we work to assist even more transplant patients who find themselves at a financial crossroads,” said Gilchrist.
“When our organization began 35 years ago, our goal was to help one patient, but now we find ourselves in a radically different environment. There has been a significant increase in the demand for organ and tissue transplants, and we must double the amount of contributions to our national fund in order to keep pace with those who need our support. Our vision remains the same: To be the first stop for a second chance and a national resource that patients call first when they are diagnosed as needing a transplant. Our support does not stop after the surgery, as we assist patients throughout their transplant journey, including help with the lifelong pharmacy costs they will incur,” said Gilchrist.
“I feel like NFT has treated our family with kindness and respect,” said Karen. “Everyone I’ve worked with has made the process as easy as they can.”
“Approximately 115,000 people are on the organ transplant list, although more than 600,000 are in end-stage renal failure,” said Gilchrist. “How can we ensure more people have equal access to the treatment that can save their lives? This is our calling and our challenge,” she said.
“We want to strengthen our communications regarding the viability and success of living donors, as well as research findings, and resource availability. There are too many lives at stake – lives that can be saved – we simply need the financial assistance to ensure there is a second chance for all patients.”
For all of our success, there are more patients every year who need our help. Help us fulfill our mission.