Teen set for life-saving kidney transplant

August 8, 2008 7:31:15 PM PDT
The family of 18-year-old Omar Castillo is giving thanks today. Omar is scheduled to receive his life saving kidney transplant Thursday at the UIC Hospital. ABC7's Leah Hope has the story on the obstacles the teenager from Mexico has overcome to get his operation.

He's the son of non-residents who has watched his parents be deported, a teenager who's administered his own nightly dialysis. He is a young man who thought his life had no hope when a local hospital didn't call back. Today there is hope and anxiety heading into a life changing surgery.

Today the focus is prayer.

Omar Castillo was joined Wednesday by friends and his sister to pray for health and healing at Saint Procopius. Omar has kidney failure. He's been on dialysis for three years. Tomorrow he'll undergo kidney transplant surgery.

"I feel happy but at the same time I'm nervous," said Omar Castillo, transplant patient.

"It was hard for him," said Avegail Garcia, girlfriend.

Omar's brother will donate his kidney. The prayers are for both young men.

"I feel blessed that my brother is giving me a second chance at life. And I feel happy and proud of my brother," said Omar.

Two weeks ago it was unclear whether Omar would get the transplant. Friends and activists protested the University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital, arguing that Omar should have the transplant under the state's All Kids healthcare program.

"Whether you're documented or undocumented, the reality is you're a human being and you want to live. And that's the bottom line," said Julie Santos , League of United Latin American Citizens.

"We became the first state in America to give every child in our state access to comprehensive health care. And as far as I'm concerned, you know, health care should apply to every single child. And the immigration status of that child's mother or father is immaterial. It's not relevant," said Governor Blagojevich.

Doctor Enrico Benedetti is the chief of transplants at UIC Hospital. He says he avoids the politics; he wants to make sure the recipient and donor are healthy and that the recipient is prepared for the rigorous and expensive after-care.

"For the patient to be better, and to do the transplant, with the reassurance that long time care will be provided," said Benedetti.

With a commitment from Omar and his advocates to post-transplant care, Omar arrived at the hospital to be admitted for the surgery. He has advocates, as his parents were deported last summer. Omar and his sister say that is the most difficult part, going through all of this with out their parents.

"It's difficult for me. But all I can say is that even though my mom and dad aren't here with me, they are here with me in my mind and inside of me," said Omar.

"She was sad and praying because she's not here with us today, with my brother, and I feel sad and happy because he's going to receive the kidney," said Elizabeth Abaraca, sister.

Dr. Benedetti says they have done other transplants with the All Kids program. In Omar's case, his advocates secured assistance to pay for him medication.

After a transplant, patients can pay up to $20,000 dollars a year for medications.

Omar's brother Jorge is undergoing pre-operation treatment and was not able to talk with ABC7 Wednesday.


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