DECATUR, Ga. -- In three weeks Anthony Stokes has gone from a teen who never had anything more than a cold, to a boy with chest pains fighting for his life.
His family says he needs a heart, but Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the only facility in Georgia that does pediatric transplants says it won't put his name on the list.
Melencia Hamilton can barely speak without tears. She fears losing her son, and struggles to understand the letter she received from the hospital, denying him a spot on the transplant list.
The letter said Stokes was currently not a candidate, "due to having a history of non-compliance."
Hamilton says she has no idea what that means. She feels he's being denied in part because he's been too healthy. He doesn't have a track record to prove he would take medication and follow doctor's orders.
Children's Healthcare would not talk with us about the decision, but in a statement said, " we are continuing to work with this family and looking at all options regarding this patient's health care."
11Alive was able to talk about the eligibility screening process with Dr. David Dean, a transplant surgeon primarily for adults at Piedmont Healthcare. He says non-compliance could mean a patient has a history of drugs or alcohol, or has failed to show up to their doctors appointment.
"Each patient that gets the heart really needs to deserve it, and we owe that to the donor's family," said Dean.
Anthony's mother insists her son's only sin, is anger management. He's been in a few fights, enough that a judge sentenced him to house arrest. He was wearing the ankle monitor when he went into the ER.
"He's a young boy. He's going to make mistakes but I still think he deserves a second chance," said his mother.
But where organs are concerned, second chances are hard to come by, especially when you need a heart.
Donor hearts are just very difficult to get, unlike kidneys and livers the heart really has to be in good shape.
Dean says there are roughly 2,000 heart transplant surgeries a year and currently more than 3,400 people on the waiting list.
According to federal records, 331 people died last year waiting for heart.
Dr. Dean says if Stokes' body is mature enough, the family could ask about an artificial heart. It could give him a chance to prove he can responsibly handle his condition, perhaps earning him a spot on the list in the future.
The family says so far, none of Stokes' doctors have mentioned it as an option.