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Second Massachusetts transplant patient loses access to money raised after charity closes

Gloucester transplant patient loses access to $10,000 after charity suddenly closes
Gloucester transplant patient loses access to $10,000 after charity suddenly closes 02:58

GLOUCESTER - More local families are coming forward after they were left scrambling when the National Foundation for Transplants closed unexpectedly and took their donations.

Earlier this month, WBZ first told you about a grandmother in Salem, who was left in the lurch, after the charity took the $11,000 raised in her name.

Now, the Ernest family is the second local family that's reached out to WBZ directly after NFT's closure left them with nowhere to turn.

Families want NFT held accountable  

The impacted families have now teamed up, hoping to push the Attorney General to hold the organization accountable.

For patients like Kathleen Ernest, the fear is made worse by frustration. Last week, the double lung transplant survivor found out her organs are failing.

The grave news came just days after learning the National Foundation for Transplants shut down and took the donations, she hoped to use for a procedure to pro-long her life.

"Death. I'm not ready. I'm afraid of dying but it's inevitable at some point," said Kathleen Ernest. "Leaving my family, you know my grandchildren, my great grandchild."

Kathleen Ernest
Kathleen Ernest CBS Boston

The 69-year-old grandma's family and friends raised $13,000 through the NFT for her transplant recovery in 2020. But when Kathleen recently tried to submit reimbursement receipts to the organization, she got an email saying they weren't accepting grant requests and mentioned their closure.

"I was so shocked," said Kathleen Ernest. "These people should be held accountable for what they did."

The $10,000 they had left is gone. Now Kathleen and her daughter Bridget are left scrambling to pay for the procedure since they say it's not covered by insurance.

"It really angers me to no end, like Massachusetts anger, like Bostonian anger," said Bridget Ernest.

NFT says tax laws prevent earmarking of donations

WBZ reached out to the National Foundation for Transplants again about the new concerns.

The organization sent WBZ the same statement they've sent before, saying because of tax laws and IRS regulations, the funds were raised for the organization, not an individual.

Both statements say in part, "All contributions received by National Foundation for Transplants were donated for its discretionary use as a non-profit entity in support of its mission. In this way, we have been able to help as many transplant patients and their families as we could ever hope to be able to. Tax laws and IRS Regulations prevent the earmarking of any donation or gift to NFT to or for the benefit of any specific individual. Gifts previously made have been utilized for serving transplant patients. There will be no funds remaining at closure."

But patients say that's not what their contract says.  

"However, I recall when we signed the contract with NFT it did say it was a lifetime commitment to the patient and was for the patient," said Bridget Ernest.

While they push for answers, Kathleen tries to replace fear and frustration, with faith.

"It's faith over fear," said Kathleen Ernest. "If he wants me, he's going to take me but he's afraid I'm going to take over so he's going to leave me down here."

The Attorney General's office has said families can file a medical complaint about NFT. WBZ has reached out again, asking if there's more that can be done, as more families are impacted.

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