April is National Donate Life Month! To celebrate this month and to help spread the importance of organ and tissue donation we would like to share an incredible story from past guest, Maribel Rodriguez.
Last May, Maribel and Angel Rodriguez, along with their two sons, Queniel and Kenneth, left their home in Puerto Rico and came to Philadelphia so that Kenneth could receive transplant care at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Read more about their transplant journey and sign up to be an organ donor today!
“It was the 5th of August in 2011 when he came into our lives: Kenneth. After just one day, we knew we were the parents of a special boy. As days went by, we discovered that Kenneth had liver disease, but we didn’t yet understand the extent of his illness or how it might impact his future.
When Kenneth was just 9 months old, his blood samples were sent to Cincinnati, and it was then that we discovered that Kenneth suffered from Alagille syndrome. The sickness was affecting several of his organs and causing pain in his bile ducts. His Bilirubin levels were rising quickly, which was affecting his liver.
The fight continued and on April 16, 2013, we found out that our baby needed a liver transplant, much sooner than we had anticipated. While weighing all of our options, a door opened: at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia there existed a team of doctors specializing in Alagille Syndrome, with the highest rates of successful liver transplants for children in the entire nation.
We made the decision to travel here, with the help of God. The question was, where would we stay? We knew no one in Philadelphia, we didn’t have money, and we both had to leave our jobs, our home, our car… But, with faith, we decided to go with what we didn’t know, what we couldn’t see.
It was then, on a day when I was desperately searching for information on the internet that we came across Gift of Life Howie’s House. I called and they immediately came to our aid, reaching out to volunteers who spoke Spanish so that we could communicate effectively.
Then, on May 25, 2013, we arrived at this beautiful home, a huge blessing for families in difficult situations like the one my family and I were in, welcoming us with love and dedication, the House surpassed my expectations.
The Howie’s House provided us with meals, much of which were prepared by volunteers and company groups, with dinner every night at 6:00 PM for all of the families. You have no idea what a blessing it is to be able to come back after a long day in the hospital and receive these home-cooked meals. The House also provided the House transportation to our appointments, a toy room for our kids which was the most fun thing for them, a laundry room to be able to wash our clothes, a Serenity Room to be close to God, a pantry full of food for those families who want to prepare their own meals.
Each day my family was welcomed by a wonderful team of volunteers, a social worker who was available at any given time, an exceptional staff, and a President with a huge heart who spends time and shares moments with the families during his visits to the House.
In short, Gift of Life was our home for 4 months, providing support to my family during such a difficult time. We have no way to repay all the love and compassion, all the services that we received in this wonderful place. Today I can say that this house provides everything a family might need in such a difficult time as the one we went through.
On December 15, 2013, the phone rang! We never could have imagined that this would be the big day! The day that we had been waiting for ever since Kenneth was born. An organ had arrived, a perfect match for Kenneth, and he would receive his transplant. After 10 hours of waiting as the doctors evaluated everything, Kenneth went into the operating room and received his transplant.
It was this day that our son was re-born. No more bone fractures, no more yellow skin or eyes, no more itching; our son could sleep in peace. Our son was healthy! A day that, with faith, we always knew would come. Thank god!” -Maribel Rodriguez