Legitimacy of West Michigan Mother’s Surgery Fundraising Questioned

Posted at 6:45 PM, Nov 07, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-07 19:03:56-05

CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. — It’s a story that grew controversial since it aired Tuesday night, when a West Michigan woman said she needed money for life-saving surgery.

Since that story aired, FOX 17 got a flurry of emails, phone calls and Facebook comments questioning Carrie Higbee’s story. Thursday, we looked deeper into those accusations.

Cedar Springs woman Heidi Hoort originally contacted us asking for help for Higbee, saying her neighbor had a heart disorder and had two weeks to live if she didn’t have surgery.
We responded to the call and went to interview Higbee about her situation; they set up a Chase Bank account to get donations to pay for the surgery. But many Cedar Springs residents who claim to know Higbee say she is not telling the whole story.
“It started as cervical cancer and then spread to ovarian and then lymphoma.  I was in the hospital a few months ago for kidney failure and its took a toll on my heart so I know I’m in congestive heart failure,” Higbee said Tuesday.
It’s a story that would move many to action, Higbee telling us she has been battling cancer for years and now needs heart surgery with only two weeks to live. But she claimed the hospital is refusing to do the surgery until she came up with $2,500 and blamed her insurance.
“We have to pay a certain amount up front to even perform the surgery and I can’t come up with it, don’t have it right away,” said Higbee.
Since the airing of the story, several people accused Higbee of asking for donations in the past for a variety of reasons, many of those people saying she inflates medical issues just to get money.
Hoort still stands by Higbeee and believes her story despite those accusations.

“I had no doubt in my heart that this was needed to be done.  I just wanted to help, I just came forward because I wanted to help,” she said.

But the questions about Higbee’s story went further than FOX 17.  Some viewers called the Kent County Sheriff’s office, who then called our newsroom and say they are looking into the matter.
The woman who set up a ‘GoFundMe’ page froze the account saying she got too many questions and concerns about Higbee’s story. She says she will refund all of the money back to donors.
Higbee still stands by her story when we talked to her Thursday.  We wanted to hear more from her and asked that she proved her original story. We were supposed to meet her at a doctor’s appointment Thursday but she says that was cancelled. We then asked her to provide us with more medical documents. We got a copy of her heart test that showed unconfirmed abnormal results. She also gave us access to her online medical records that confirmed cancer, ovarian cysts and a type of heart defect.
Carrie says those medical records validate her story but then backed off her earlier claims she only has two weeks to live.
As for the accusations, Higbee admits others have raised money for her in the past for different medical conditions but says she is not out to illegally take money from anyone.
“I have never done anything to get money for myself or my family.  This has been people who know me and know this is the truth,” said Higbee.
We reached out to the several of the people that contacted us questioning Higbee’s story. Although we were able to verify their identity, nobody wanted to do an on camera interview. These are only accusations and Higbee hasn’t been convicted of anything.  Higbee says she has more documentation to back up her story but says she can’t get it to us for several days.