New York Times Neediest Cases

A Lively Little Girl Needs a Kidney Donor - The New York Times

The day that Edgar Campos brought his wife and newborn girl home from the hospital was bittersweet.

Mr. Campos was overjoyed to have his family under the same roof for the first time, especially his wife, Amalia, 24, who spent almost a week in the hospital with pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and potential organ damage.

“But that moment of happiness was very brief,” Mr. Campos, 29, said.

An hour after his wife arrived, he left to take his older daughter, Maria Guadalupe, 4, to the hospital for a medical procedure. “It was hard to leave those few minutes of happiness,” he said. “It was really very painful.”

Maria learned in April that she had kidney failure. There is no cure. The only remedies are dialysis, a temporary solution, or a kidney transplant. The trip to the hospital that day was to put in a catheter that would be used for her dialysis.

Mr. Campos is not a kidney donor match; Mrs. Campos is a match, but because of her complications with pre-eclampsia, she is not an ideal donor candidate.

Maria receives dialysis three times a week, and the family hopes a donor will soon surface.

“I feel powerless,” Mr. Campos said in Spanish as he sat in the room his family occupies in a two-bedroom apartment shared with others in East Harlem. “I would do anything to help her. I would give her my kidney, but I’m not compatible. I can’t do anything for her.”

“The doctors tell us that it’s possible to have one kidney and live a normal life,” he added. “She only needs one.”

Mr. Campos was born in New York City but raised in Quicayán, Mexico, where a mix of poverty and meager health care meant he did not know for years that he was legally blind; a teacher pointed it out when he was 6.

He dreamed of a better life in the United States and at 17 he moved back to New York City. Within six months, Mr. Campos enrolled in English classes and was on his way to completing his high school equivalency diploma.

While visiting relatives in Quicayán, a village of a few hundred people, Mr. Campos was introduced to his future wife. Her father would not let her date, but after Mr. Campos returned to the United States, they started a relationship over the phone.

“He would say beautiful things to me,” Mrs. Campos said. “We talked about our desires and our dreams. He is a wonderful person.”

They were married in 2010 and she moved to the United States, where she has found life to be difficult. “I miss my parents and where I was raised,” she said. “I’m here for the future of my children.”

Mr. Campos graduated in June with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from New York City College of Technology, but he has had a difficult time finding employment.

“You have to be completely dedicated to your job, and sometimes I have to drop everything and take Maria Guadalupe to the hospital,” said Mr. Campos, who receives help with his job search from the Catholic Guild for the Blind. “It’s difficult because now we’re having economic problems.”

Mr. Campos and Maria each receive $750 a month in Supplemental Security Income, and the family receives $250 a month in food stamps. Their rent is $550 a month, and Mr. and Mrs. Campos share a cellphone.

Medicaid pays for most of the family’s medical expenses, and they receive nonfinancial support from the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, which provides social services for vulnerable East Harlem residents. When Mr. and Mrs. Campos fell behind on their rent, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York, one of the organizations supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, drew $350 from the fund to cover the arrears.

A wall devoted to images of the Virgin of Guadalupe is above Maria’s bed, where she acts like any other rambunctious preschooler — chatting, drawing and singing. (Katy Perry is her favorite.)

“She was always so healthy, since she was a baby,” Mrs. Campos said as she sat on her bed. “Now sometimes she’s up at 7 a.m., playing. Other times she can’t get out of bed. It’s very difficult to see.”

“I’m asking the public to help me,” Mrs. Campos added, shifting her newborn across her lap to wipe tears from her eyes. “Have pity on me as a mother. I don’t want to see my daughter suffer. Have pity on my daughter. One kidney can completely change her life.”

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