(Read Spanish version here.)  Being informed that you require an organ transplant can be an extremely difficult and traumatic experience for anyone. This can be further complicated if English is not your first language, or if you have a tenuous immigration status. The healthcare system in the U.S. is notoriously difficult to navigate. Furthermore, the global COVID-19 Pandemic has underscored the healthcare inequities experienced by marginalized communities. In this Hispanic Heritage month series, we will profile several brave individuals who are currently going through the fight of their lives.

Due to several factors, heart disease disproportionately affects communities of color. Especially, with respect to the Hispanic community, individuals are reluctant to seek treatment due to many factors such as language barriers, a lack of access to preventive care, immigration status as well as lack of education.

Currently, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death among Hispanics. In order to ameliorate these inequities, it is imperative that U.S. healthcare providers make a greater effort to engage with the Hispanic community and other communities of color. Individuals can also take steps such as following a healthy diet and getting more exercise to lower their risk of cardiovascular issues.

One such patient who is trying to overcome these inequities is Michael Alequin-Rodriguez. In 2015, he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. Unfortunately, like other Hispanic patients, this condition also took a toll on his kidneys.

Michael is happily married to his wife, Wilmarie. The couple has a 9-year-old daughter and live in Florida. Before his health declined, Michael enjoyed working, going to church, and spending time with loved ones. His motivation to continue to fight during his transplant journey is to see his family grow and thrive

For more than 40 years, The National Foundation for Transplants has been assisting transplant patients with advocacy and fundraising support. We work with volunteers and supporters to help relieve the burden of expenses for patients such as Catarino. Please help us to continue our mission in the Hispanic community by providing a financial gift today!

Ben Jabbour, Contributor

Ben Jabbour currently works as a Bilingual Fundraising Consultant for the National Foundation for Transplants. He is a seasoned executive with extensive experience in the medical non-profit, community engagement, legal, and compliance sectors. In his current role, he advises patients in accessing critical healthcare services during their transplant journey with a focus on serving the Hispanic community. He has served on non-profit boards helping historically marginalized populations.  Ben holds a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish Language from Vanderbilt University. He earned his J.D. from the University of Memphis, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.