Celebrate National Minority Donor Awareness Month

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

Of the more than 5,300 people on the waiting list for an organ transplant in the state of Illinois, 63 percent are minorities. Throughout the month of August, during which the urgent need for minority organ and tissue donors is observed, Gift of Hope shares a story that demonstrates how fragile life is and the consequences that our loved ones suffer due to the lack of action taken in a timely manner to help save lives.

Anselmo Ruiz is a go-getter who began his career as a dishwasher and who rose up the ranks to become a famous chef and obtain the much coveted FiveStar distinction through perseverance and a strong desire to succeed. However, his success story also includes many highs and lows; his health has been compromised for years due to the need for organ transplants, a need he continues to have today.

“When I was 19, I never went to the doctor because I never got sick,” Ruiz said. “When the doctor told me I had diabetes the first thing I thought of was death because my uncle was killed by the disease. I started taking medication, but it did not work. That’s when I was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes and I began injecting insulin,” commented Ruiz.

Ruiz endured his diabetes for 20 years until at 38-years-old; he experienced neuropathy as a result of his disease. Diabetic neuropathy damages the nervous system and decreases blood flow. Slowly Ruiz began losing feeling in his legs until one day he could no longer walk. His doctors told him he needed to be placed on the waiting list for a pancreas transplant at the University of Illinois hospital. He received a transplant a few months later, but unfortunately by then he learned that his kidneys were failing and that he needed to start dialysis.

“Once a patient begins dialysis it is difficult to maintain a transplant. Now his kidney functions, but he needs another pancreas transplant,” said Dr. Jose Oberholzer, Transplant Surgeon at the University of Illinois Hospital. Almost half of people with diabetes suffer from nerve damage. Usually in the case of type-1 diabetes, when the pancreas no longer produces insulin, a pancreas and kidney transplant must occur at the same time. Unfortunately that was not the case for Ruiz. He only placed himself on the pancreas transplant waiting list and not the kidney list because his kidneys were working well at the time.

This month, as we continue to raise awareness about the urgent need for organ and tissue donation among minorities, Gift of Hope invites the Hispanic community to continue increasing the number of entries in the state registry and to show active solidarity with those waiting for transplants.

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