Support grows for immigrant in need of transplant

February 4, 2012 1:23:45 AM PST
A medical drama is playing out involving an undocumented immigrant in need of a kidney transplant. He may have a donor, but he claims the hospital has refused to perform the life-saving operation.

Jesus Navarro may have a donor in his wife. She has the right blood type, which is a key factor, but hasn't been tested. Either way, he needs a kidney, and he says UCSF has decided against giving him one.

Navarro, 35, and his supporters gathered Friday afternoon to try to garner more help to get the hospital to change its mind.

Navarro, an Oakland resident, spends 9 hours a day hooked up to his home dialysis machine just so he can feel well enough to care for his family. What he needs is a kidney.

After being on the transplant list at UCSF for several years, Navarro says he finally reached the top of the list only to be told by UCSF in May that he couldn't get a kidney because he's an illegal immigrant.

UCSF can't comment on Navarro's case because of privacy laws, but explained in a statement, "UCSF does not reject potential transplant patients based on their immigration status?UCSF, like other transplant centers, is vigilant about ensuring that the few available organs are transplanted into patients with the best opportunities for long-term care and survival."

"That time, when we went there, he had a job, he had everything; they didn't know he was going to lose his job 29," Navarro's wife said.

Navarro just recently lost his job with Pacific Steel when it was audited by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. He still has insurance, for now. It won't last.

An organization called Causa Justa Just Cause has started a petition.

"He was covered at the time, so they should have done it; there wasn't any reason to do it, then now he's still covered and there have been many multiple number of individuals who have come out and said that they're continue to support him in his after care," CJJC spokesperson Cinthya Munoz said.

Several organizations are also on board.

"There's Filipinos for Affirmative Justice, there's the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, there's the California Nurses Association, there's the Physicians for Healthcare for All," Munoz said.

In the meantime, Navarro will continue his daily dialysis in hopes UCSF will give him a kidney.

"He wants to live for my daughter and for me, I guess," his wife said.

UCSF says immuno-suppressive drugs are costly and kidney patients sometimes end up in the safety net of Medicare, which undocumented immigrants don't have access to. Navarro and his wife say they understand that the hospital needs to give the organs to people who can pay for the after care, but they're still hoping for s different outcome.


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