“It is an understatement when we say the Gift of Life Howie’s House is a life saver; a thank you will never express our gratitude.” – Felicia Padilla, recent House guest
Felicia and Jose Padilla are a young, active couple from Rockland County, New York who have been married for two years. Felicia says that, for as long as she’d known Jose, she had not known a life without dialysis. “When Jose and I first met, his kidney had just failed and he was back on dialysis. Even on our honeymoon, I spent hours apart from him as he had to go to dialysis treatments during our trip.”
As just a young child, Jose was diagnosed with Alport Syndrome, a rare genetic kidney disease that resulted in full renal failure by the age of just 16. At that time, Jose was put on dialysis and officially listed for a transplant in New York. “Luckily, Jose was blessed with a transplant from his mother, Ines, who was a perfect match,” explains Felicia, “His first transplant lasted almost 11 years before it stopped functioning.” At the age of 27, when his kidney began to fail yet again, Jose and Felicia were once again back on the transplant journey. But without a family member to serve as a living donor, and because of Jose’s high percentage of antibodies, the wait time for a kidney in New York would have been approximately 8 to 11 years. At this point, Felicia and Jose began to explore other options.
“In order to give my husband a better chance at finding a match, we began the arduous testing process to be listed at transplant centers in other states,” describes Felicia, “After five calls for potential donors that did not work out, we received a sixth call for a kidney on the 28th of June and rushed to Philadelphia in the middle of the night. Thankfully, Jose had finally found a match.”
A match was found, but Philadelphia was still three hours away, and the Padillas did not want to have to commute six hours back and forth to the hospital for his treatment and follow-up care. That’s when Jose’s transplant coordinator suggested they consider Gift of Life Howie’s House, where they stayed for four weeks over the summer while Jose recovered from his long-awaited and life-saving kidney transplant. “I cannot imagine what recovery would have been like without this safe haven,” says Felicia of the Gift of Life Howie’s House. “We could have never afforded a hotel each night. The House was an affordable place where we could comfortably stay and it was only about 20 minutes from Jose’s hospital, with free transportation provided through the Gift of Life Howie’s House shuttle service.”
The Padillas found comfort at the House and also greatly enjoyed the Home Cook Hero meals provided by volunteers each day. As Felicia states, these home-cooked meals were “always delicious and took away so much of the stress of recovery after being in the hospital all day.” Felicia and Jose also took full advantage of the free laundry services and gym available to them, allowing them to feel, in Felicia’s words, “right at home.” And of course, the comfort of connecting with other individuals on the transplant journey – offering advice and sharing experiences – helped them immensely.
“Another one of our favorite things about Gift of Life Howie’s House,” Felicia says, “were the events they planned for the families. There was a Sunday where any guest staying at the House could receive a free haircut from a volunteer stylist in the area, a night where we tie-dyed shirts, and even a carnival night. It was amazing to see all the wonderful things Gift of Life Howie’s House provides for their guests.”
Felicia sums up her experience saying, “Gift of Life Howie’s House was a beautiful and comfortable place to rest our head at night—it was beyond our expectations. It offered us peace of mind and a place where we could ‘take it easy’ and focus solely on recovery. We were able to forget about the other stresses of life and simply live in the moment. We felt extremely safe there.”
Felicia and Jose say they now look forward to their second chance at a “normal” life together: they love traveling as much as possible, being outdoors and active and spending time with their dog, Delia. Now, thanks to Jose’s transplant and successful recovery at the Gift of Life Howie’s House, this is all possible. As Felicia notes, “it is an understatement when we say the House is a life saver; a thank you will never express our gratitude.”