Edna Marie Medeiros chokes up talking about how Season of Sharing – The Chronicle’s annual giving campaign – helped her move to a larger apartment so her son Antonio could have his own room while recovering from a kidney transplant.
“God bless them because they changed our lives,” said Medeiros, an outgoing woman with a ready smile. “I didn’t have to struggle; I didn’t have to sell my furniture to afford a place.”
Medeiros has had plenty of struggles as it is. Her identical twins, Antonio and Joshua, now 16, experienced a rare medical condition at birth called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, which damaged Antonio’s kidneys.
When the boys were 10, Medeiros’ husband died unexpectedly. She made do, running her own business buying and selling jewelry.
Then last year, Antonio’s kidneys started failing. He required dialysis at UCSF three times a week for several hours at a time. That meant Medeiros could no longer work, and had to subsist on her late husband’s Social Security survivor benefits and a Section 8 housing subsidy.
Medeiros had always planned to donate a kidney to her son when the time came, but it turned out she was not a match. (As a minor, Joshua cannot donate.)
Through UCSF, she learned of the National Kidney Registry, a relatively new program designed to help living donor-recipient pairs who are medically incompatible. In essence, the program enables an organ swap. Through sophisticated software matching, it has arranged 362 transplants since launching in February 2008, said Janine Sabatte-Caspillo, UCSF transplant coordinator.
A living donor needed
“She was very committed to finding Antonio a living transplant,” said Jessica Brennan, UCSF pediatric transplant nurse practitioner. The reason: Kidneys from a deceased donor generally last up to 10 years, while those from a living donor can last up to 15 years.
“She took it very seriously, stepped up to the plate and learned everything she needed to learn,” Brennan said. That included losing 40 pounds to qualify as a donor.
“A lot of potential donors can’t do that; it’s very hard to lose that much weight,” Brennan said. “She really applied herself and was very strict.”
After several months, the program matched the Medeiros family with three other donor-recipient pairs in an eight-way swap, so that Edna Marie’s kidney would go to someone who needed it and Antonio would receive a match. The mother and son underwent surgery at UCSF in June, and both came out doing well.
The medical team felt that Antonio would benefit from having his own room, both to avoid germs and to give him a quiet space to retreat.
Although the Housing Authority gave the family permission to relocate from a two-bedroom to a three-bedroom, Medeiros needed help with the security deposit for the new residence, a modest three-bedroom townhouse in a quiet Fremont neighborhood.
Season of Sharing stepped in to help.
The tight-knit family moved into their new home in September. “We don’t even have things up on the walls yet,” Medeiros said, showing off the immaculate space. Each boy’s room is just large enough for a bed and desk.
Antonio must take many immune-suppressing drugs every day. His doctor, Dr. Anthony Portale, medical director of the UCSF pediatric kidney transplant program, said the teen is a conscientious patient.
‘A good prognosis’
“He’s a very polite and serious boy,” he said. “He assumes a lot more responsibility for his care than you might expect from a teenager. That’s a good prognosis for him regarding his long-term outlook.”
Medeiros refers to her sons as “two peas in a pod” and indeed they walk, talk, dress and look alike, other than Antonio’s longer hair and slightly shorter stature.
Antonio hopes to be a police officer when he grows up, to be like his father, who had just qualified to be a prison guard when he passed away.
As for Joshua, he wants to be a nurse.
“I’ve seen how the nurses took care of Antonio,” he said. “I want to help people and brighten their day.”