Photo: Facing Death, Undocumented Immigrant Finally Given Kidney Transplant
After thousands fought for him, an undocumented immigrant in need of a kidney transplant was finally granted the life-saving operation on September 27th.
For seven years, 36-year-old Jesus Navarro has been in need of a kidney transplant, but despite having private insurance for 14 years, he was denied a transplant by the UC San Francisco Medical Center due in part to his immigration status.
In January, Navarro’s story went viral as many thought it unfair he be denied an operation when, at the time he had private insurance, and a his wife was willing to give a kidney.
In the end, Navarro’s wife of 8 years was not a good enough match and he remained on the transplant list, but was “inactive”, as the hospital asked he ensure he would have be financially prepared for post-surgery care.
Since learning of his plight, more than 100,000 people across the country signed online petitions on Change.org attempting to help. But while some wanted to help, others were outraged by the thought that a U.S. hospital would give an illegal immigrant an organ that would otherwise go to a U.S. citizen.
The hospital, which has more than 5,200 patients on the organ transplant list, has one of the largest transplant programs in the United States.
Though the hospital was flooded with criticism, officials insisted his immigration status was not solely the issue at hand. What it really came down to was whether Navarro would be able to afford proper aftercare. Should he not, it would be as though a kidney was wasted. After he lost his job following an immigration sweep at the steel factory where he worked, Navarro was left without healthcare and faced having to rely on government assistance, something the hospital found worrisome.
After being forced to publically address the situation, UCSF released a statement with Navarro’s permission attempting to clarify things:
UCSF does not reject transplant candidates based on their immigration status and has performed transplants on undocumented individuals. These patients are not refused treatment. Rather, UCSF refers them to community-based and other external services that can help them address issues related to specific access-to-care hurdles faced by non-citizens. Of particular concern is their lack of easy access to the health insurance necessary to receive proper post-transplant follow up. Follow-up care is critical to transplant patients, who otherwise may lose the organ and become less healthy than they were on dialysis.
While the patients resolve those problems, they remain on the transplant waiting list.
UCSF spokeswoman Karin Rush-Monroe also stated, “There was clearly a misunderstanding, and we did re-evaluate the communications process because we don’t want any patient walking away thinking something different than we thought we conveyed.”
Despite the long wait and many years relying on a dialysis machine, Navarro is now recuperating at his family’s Oakland apartment, and looking forward to the possibility of taking his 3-year-old daughter trick-or-treating later this month.