Maria Fernanda Filizola

When kidney disease runs in the family, ten year old Nevaeh with the help of her parents focuses on hope, gratitude and compassion for others.

Maria Fernanda Filizola is a kind, joyful woman with a very positive attitude. When she decided not to donate her kidney to her husband, it was not because she didn’t want to, but rather because she needed to save her kidney in case one day her daughter would need it. When Maria met her future husband, David, she learned that he had suffered from kidney disease as a young man. However, she did not understand how difficult kidney disease could become because at the time he was so healthy after having received a successful kidney transplant. Two years after their daughter, Nevaeh, was born, David became sick again. “It was a very difficult time,” said Maria, “David was too sick to work and my daughter was very little.”

The situation worsened drastically when they learned that Nevaeh had the same genetic disease as her father. Because of this, Maria did not want to donate to her husband. “It was a difficult decision but in the end we had to think about the health and future of our daughter,” said Maria. Their family was lucky because two years after being placed on the waiting list, David received a kidney from a deceased donor. David is a very equitable person and he felt guilty that because of someone’s death he would continue living. However, this gift made it possible for David to improve the lives of many other people. David works at Northwest Mental Health as a manager for housing for people with mental illness. “My husband likes to help,” shared Maria, “He is devoted to his work, he fights and works very hard for the ill to have a good life, even though they have very severe health problems.” Maria and David are teaching their daughter, Nevaeh, this attitude of gratitude and hope and how to be a compassionate person. At first Nevaeh was anxious and scared about her condition because she had watched her father suffer. Her parents responded by educating her about her illness and teaching her that her situation doesn’t have to be as bad of an experience as she had thought. “I tell her that we are going to learn something good from this experience,” said Maria. Neveah, a ten-year-old that loves music, organizes a Barbie drive every year to collect donations of dolls for sick children at Doernbecher.

Maria’s family began volunteering with Donate Life Northwest this year and has already put in some of the highest numbers of volunteer hours. Maria always brings Nevaeh with her as a volunteer. “We want her to realize that there are lots of people in a similar situation and we want to motivate her so that together we can continue helping out,” said Maria. Maria is from Mexico City and is a very important member of our Latino Program. She says that she wanted to be part of this program to spend more time with other Latinos and to be able to change the ideas within this community about donation and transplant. By giving presentations and tabling at events for Spanish speakers, Maria is sharing her experience, her knowledge, and her strength with her community.