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Monday, February 2, 2009

A healthcare Catch-22: Kidney transplant for a homeless man

Pedro Cendeno Lora, age 47, had come to the U.S. in 1995 from the Dominican Republic, and had lived here quite happily for most of that time.

But he knew something was wrong when he became too tired to keep going to work. In late 2006, his lethargy was attributed to kidney failure; by then, he was out of work, and struggling to hang onto his rooming house in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Doctors told him he needed a kidney transplant. But in an all-too-common American healthcare Catch-22, he couldn't work because of his health, and he couldn't qualify for a transplant while in danger of losing his home.

He was running out of time when Health Care for the Homeless and Boston Medical Center came together last year to save him, in two ways. First, they searched for a donor, and realized his younger brother could donate a kidney. Second, Health Care for the Homeless helped him catch up on his rent so he could have a home to recuperate in.

The transplant was performed at Boston Medical Center. Pedro and his brother were able to stay at Barbara McInnis House for the homeless for the week before to prepare for the surgery, and for a month afterward.

"America saved me," he says.

Advice: Work to expand the safety net so it's there if and when you're out of work.

Read another story about a brother’s kidney donation.

Thanks to Adrian Walker for the source article in the Boston Globe of Dec. 9.

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