A Christmas Miracle
By Sandra García
Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011
Christmas came a day early for Octavio Estevez.
Estevez, 54, in the terminal stages of renal disease, is in dire need of a kidney.
For the last week, and long before, Estevez’s life has taken a series of dramatic, and sometimes harrowing, turns.
But this past Sat., Dec. 24th, on “Nochebuena,” or Christmas Eve, Estevez, who’d been living with his family in a Bronx shelter for months, received keys to a new apartment in Washington Heights – keys which may very well save his life.
For the past few months, Estevez has been pleading his case before the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), hoping to advance on the waiting list for housing he’d been placed on since August.
Estevez suffered a series of strokes in 2006 which kept him from his work as a tailor. Soon, he’d fallen behind on rent, and the father of two and his family were homeless. The Dominican-born U.S. citizen, who moved to the city in 1984, found housing in a Bronx homeless shelter, only to be diagnosed with end-stage renal disease two years ago.
Estevez, who is down to 24% kidney function, needs a transplant to save his life.
But New York Presbyterian in Washington Heights and Mount Sinai Medical Center in the Bronx, local medical institutions at which Estevez might receive a transplant and continued care, could not perform the transplant surgery.
Without a permanent home, the hospitals’ rules prohibit organ transplants for fear that the patients would be exposed to undue risk of infection or other complications that would endanger the patient – and the scarce, valuable resource that is a harvested organ.
“My biggest worry is that I’ll die and my children will wind up in the street,” said Estevez during a press conference with Councilman Rodriguez earlier in the week.
Estevez’s case has been championed in the past week by a bevy of local elected officials, including New York City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, of northern Manhattan, and New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat, whose district covers northern Manhattan and the Bronx.
On Mon., Dec. 19th, Councilmember Rodriguez and Senator Espaillat were joined by their colleagues from across the city and state, including New York State Assemblymember Guillermo Linares, and New York City Councilmembers Melissa-Mark Viverito, Fernando Cabrera, and Jumaane Williams, who stood with Estevez to ask Mayor Bloomberg’s assistance on the steps of City Hall.