Heart patient Stephen Regalado of Mission Viejo, whose need for $50,000 to qualify for a heart transplant brought donations of $32,000 during last weekend, died Monday morning at the UCI Medical Center.
Regalado, 23, who needed $50,000 before his name could be placed on a waiting list for a heart transplant, suffered a cardiac arrest when nurses were about to escort him for a routine weight check.
Regalado's case illustrated the problem faced by millions of Americans who cannot afford health care because they have no health insurance, doctors and hospital administrators say.
"It was another case of running out of time," said Dr. Richard Ott, UCI Medical Center director of cardiac transplantation. "It highlights the problem. This was a treatable disease, but because of economic issues," Regalado died.
On Friday, Ott and hospital authorities began a drive to raise $50,000 for Regalado. The operation normally costs about $200,000, but the price was lowered to $50,000 after the hospital staff decided to donate its services.
Three heart patients without medical insurance have received new hearts, hospital spokeswoman Elaine Beno said. But increasing costs have prohibited the hospital from underwriting further heart transplants and other major operations.
Ott said Regalado might have been able to receive a new heart within two weeks if he had secured the cash deposit.
Ott praised those who had contributed $32,000 since Friday's appeal. "We have never raised so much money so quickly," he said.
UCI Medical Center auxiliary president John Stroh said Monday that the donations would be placed in the Stephen Regalado Memorial Trust, established for poor heart patients.