As an illegal immigrant, Jorge Mariscal waited eight years for a kidney transplant he feared would never come.
His persistence paid off Thursday when he underwent the procedure at Loyola University Medical Center.
After years of uncertainties, Mariscal said he’s excited about his future and grateful for the help he received. But he remains frustrated with a health care system that he worries might leave out an untold number of illegal immigrants in need of lifesaving treatments.
"Why can’t we be treated the same?" he asked while sitting in his hospital room. "Health care should be a human right, not a privilege. At least give us the chance to fight for our lives with dignity."
Mariscal’s treatment is far from over. The pills he’ll need to make sure his body doesn’t reject the new organ can cost upward of $10,000 a year for the rest of his life. And paying for those, just like the surgery, is complicated by his immigration status.
Although Loyola agreed to cover the costs of the transplant, Mariscal will have to pay for the medicine. He applied for a grant through the Simon Bolivar Foundation, a medical nonprofit, that would help cover his first year of anti-rejection pills. But without health insurance, he expects he’ll have to pay for most of his medication.
To get a head start on his future medical bills, Mariscal started raising money three years ago. Together with Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission in Little Village, he has raised thousands of dollars through benefit concerts and other events.