Lissette Robinson, wife and living donor
Reggie Robinson, husband and kidney recipient
The lives of nearly 4,000 Hispanics in the United States were saved last year through organ donation and transplantation. Many thousands more restored their sight, health, and mobility through cornea or tissue transplants. While the most recent U.S. census data listed Hispanics as approximately 16 percent of the total U.S. population, 18 percent of the nearly 120,000 people who are waiting for organ transplants are Hispanic.
Lissette Estepa, originally from Puerto Rico, knows firsthand about the importance of organ donation and community education. Living in Denver with her husband Reggie, Lissette and her family moved to Columbia, Maryland two years ago after her husband was added to the kidney transplant waitlist. “We knew we had to move since The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center are two of the top-rated transplant centers in the country. We have family here so moving made sense,” says Lissette. At first, Reggie wouldn’t let Lissette take the test to find out if she was a match but Lissette knew she had to try. “I kept telling him, I know I will be a match. Watch, I’m going to be your kidney donor.” After a lot of research, Reggie finally gave the OK for Lissette to get tested and the rest fell into place. While Eliana, their 11 year old daughter, prepared to welcome family from across the region for Easter, Preston, their 9 year old son, became the Robinson’s “trainer” taking them down to local nature trails to ensure his parents were in shape for such a surgery and his training seems to have paid off. “The surgery went fine, I have no complaints” says Lissette and Reggie says his new found energy has been life-changing. “I have a different desire for life. It’s important to me to focus on my family and find a work-life balance. I find myself drawn to a more rewarding career in advocacy or a foundation now. If I had it my way, I would hit the lottery and just be a stay at home dad.”
Lissette feels a weight has been lifted. Before the surgery, she couldn’t sleep, always worried about Reggie’s health and stressed about keeping their kids busy while she cared for Reggie. “I don’t miss that,” she says, “I love seeing Reggie with new energy and being able to live a life that can just happen, with no worries.”
One of the biggest things Lissette and her family learned through their experience is how little the community knows about organ donation, especially the Hispanic community. “Donation was a taboo subject in my family and I took this opportunity to educate them about the whole process. I’m proud to say my three sisters and brother-in-law are now designated donors because of our experience and all have a new found interest in kidney and general health.”
Currently, there are nearly 120,000 men, women and children in the United States in need of a lifesaving or healing transplant, more than 20,000 of whom are of Hispanic heritage. The chances for a successful transplant increase significantly when people of the same ethnicity are matched, so it is imperative that we continue to register more donors of all ethnic backgrounds.
For more information about organ, eye and tissue donation, please visit www.thellf.org