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Smiling, tall Hispanic woman with short curly hair, wearing a red button-down shirt, with arms around a shorter, smiling, long-haired Hispanic woman
Green silhouette of kidneys

Paola Sauceda

For the last 27 years, since she was 3 years old, Paola’s life has been a constant fight for survival. She is ready for a kidney transplant so that she can live the healthy life she has always wanted. 

When she was born in Mexico in 1993, she was a normal, healthy baby. But when Paola was three, a trip to the doctor with a fever and pink eye brought the shocking and unwelcome news that she was in kidney failure. Doctors told her mother, Bertha, that Paola only had 14 days to live. Bertha refused to accept that and packed her up to come to Oregon to stay with family and find better treatment. With the help of doctors at Oregon Health & Science University, Paola beat the odds and lived past the time her doctor in Mexico had projected, but she was a very sick little girl. They kept her for six months before she was stable and healthy enough to return to her family.

When Paola was 18, her son, Giovani was born. Even as Paola celebrated the birth and life of her child, her own health began to decline. Paola’s healthcare coverage was an emergency-only coverage specifically for those who weren’t born in the US. The emergency-only coverage didn’t allow for preventative or maintenance care. So, in spite of her worsening symptoms, she was unable to find much relief or improvement for her symptoms. Her weight plummeted to 69 pounds, she was unable to eat, and she made many trips to the emergency room. Yet, with her lack of health coverage, dialysis – which she needed to live – wasn’t an option.

Today, Paola has more hope than she has had in a long time. Because she was able to be added to her spouse’s health insurance, she could begin dialysis treatments, which she’s now been receiving for three years. That has stabilized her health enough to be added to the kidney transplant waiting list. But while she waits for a transplant, her activities are extremely limited. She is constantly sick and fatigued. She’s unable to work or do anything that requires energy, like walking through the grocery store.

Paola desperately needs a kidney transplant. She appeals, “I’ve been sick my whole life – since I was three. I’m ready to live life. I’m ready to not have restrictions. More than anything, I want to work.”

As Paola waits for her second chance at life, she is doing everything she can to stay healthy enough to remain on the transplant waiting list. She talks to people in her community, helping them to understand that kidney disease can be sneaky. According to the CDC, as many as 90 percent of people who have kidney disease don’t know they have it until damage is extensive. She also encourages others who are on the waiting list like she is: “Don’t lose hope!”

Paola encourages everyone to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors and to consider becoming a living kidney donor: “You can live with one kidney. If it’s in your heart to donate, know that it is saving someone’s life!”