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After initial denial, teen granted spot on heart transplant list

The family of an ailing 15-year-old who had been denied a spot on a heart transplant list said Tuesday afternoon that hospital officials have reversed their decision.

Family spokesman Mark Bell has confirmed to NBC News that Anthony Stokes, whose heart is failing, is now a candidate for a donor heart.

Hospital officials with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said they could not comment on Stokes’ placement on a transplant list because of privacy constraints.

“As we stated previously, a heart transplant evaluation is an ongoing process based on the patient and his or her family's ability to meet specific transplant criteria,” Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “While there has been misinformation circulating, Children's cannot discuss the specifics of this case or any other case due to privacy rules. Our physician experts are continuing to work with this family to establish a care plan and determine the best next steps for the patient.”

Stokes made headlines after doctors at Children’s Healthcare refused to put him on a transplant list due to a “history of noncompliance.” In other words, doctors at the pediatric hospital did not think he would follow through with medications and follow-up appointments needed to keep him alive after a heart transplant.

Stokes’ mother, Melencia Hamilton, told TODAY that she thought the hospital was punishing her son for run-ins with the law. When he was admitted to the hospital, he was wearing an ankle monitor because he’d been placed under house arrest for a recent fight.

"He’s a young boy,” Hamilton said. “He's going to make mistakes, but I still think he deserves a second chance."

Mom of teen denied heart transplant: 'He deserves a second chance'

Hamilton said doctors had no evidence of past “noncompliance,” since her son has no history of illness. The teen showed up at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta four weeks ago, complaining of shortness of breath and chest pains. It didn’t take long for doctors to diagnose an enlarged heart — and to tell him that the only treatment option was an actual transplant. 

Hamilton told TODAY that a denial of a new heart for her son could mean that he would pay the most severe price for his youthful behavior.

“I just pray,” she said. “I pray constantly.”

Commentary: Why teen needs a break in heart transplant case