Allex Rendón feels blessed every day for the second chance at life he was given three years ago, when he became the recipient of a kidney transplant. That opportunity, coupled with the memories of his own dark days of receiving dialysis three times a week, inspired Rendón to volunteer with the Georgia Transplant Foundation.
This organization offers educational programs and financial and emotional support to patients who require organ transplants, as well as information and resources for families and loved ones.
One of GTF’s main programs is for people like Rendón, who wish to take on a mentor role and help and guide others on the challenging path of organ failure.
“You can imagine being in the doctor’s office and hearing that you need an organ, you’re terrified and you don’t even hear half of what they doctor is saying to you,” said Pat Rotchford, executive director of GTF. “We have a group of people that we call mentors who have already gone through the process, they can help others go through it and answer a lot of the questions that these patients might have.”
The Mentor Project is now being introduced and promoted to the Latino community.
“I found out that the Hispanic community was being ignored. We say we are here for everyone, and I was surprised to hear this,” explained Rotchford.
According to GTF, 160 Hispanics are on the wait list for a transplant in Georgia. Many others receive dialysis but are not on the wait list, said Rotchford.
In addition to having Latino survivors like Rendón, who is Columbian, volunteering for their organization, GTF has translated educational resources into Spanish. It provides talks and presentations in Spanish and has set up a Spanish phone line. GTF is also in the process of launching a new website exclusively for Hispanics.
The organization’s goal is to act as a support system for patients during the entire process, from the moment they are told they will require an organ, until the moment they receive a transplant. For that reason, GTF provides financial assistance.
“We have financial aid that can pay for an electricity or gas bill or even your transportation from the hospital to home, or vice versa,” explained Rotchford. As well, when a patient raises money for his or her transplant, GTF is able to match that amount up to $10,000.
Also, some patients are able to obtain access to a health insurance plan through the organization, since dialysis patients frequently must leave their jobs, thus losing their insurance benefits.
Rendón, for his part, is thankful for the second chance he has been given, and that is why he feels so passionately about helping others who hope to do the same.
“I got my health back, I got my strength back. Before, I was tired and I felt bad, I had to go to the clinic three times a week,” said Rendón. “After that I would feel so tired and so worn out from the treatment. Now, I exercise and I’m self-employed. I can swim, I can travel.”