Undocumented Portland mother too sick for new liver, despite OHS - KPTV - FOX 12

Undocumented Portland mother too sick for new liver, despite OHSU policy change

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Silvia Lesama-Santos center, courtesy ACLU of Oregon Silvia Lesama-Santos center, courtesy ACLU of Oregon
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

The sick Portland mother who spurred Oregon Health & Science University to change its policies regarding citizenship requirements for organ transplants is too ill to receive a new liver, according to her family.

Silvia Lesama-Santos’ son Ivan Gonzalez spoke to reporters Thursday morning at a press conference held by the American Civil Liberties Union’s Oregon chapter.

“Because she has waited so long for her treatment, her health has seriously deteriorated,” Gonzalez said.

The 46-year-old mother of four has struggled with liver failure for about six years, Gonzalez said, adding that for much of her illness, a lack of health insurance prevented Lesama-Santos for getting on a liver donation list.

According to the ACLU, she was able to get health insurance a few weeks ago but was again denied a slot on the transplant list because of her undocumented immigration status.

The ACLU provided a copy of the letter OHSU sent to Lesama-Santos. The family received the letter Monday, and by the time they went public with their story Tuesday, only hours passed before OHSU announced it would be changing its “archaic” policy.

It couldn’t come soon enough for the family, sharing that Lesama-Santos was close to death Monday.

Gonzalez said he is grateful for the community’s support and prayers. He said despite his mother’s critical condition, the family is hopeful she can recover enough to get a new liver.

“We started in the end stages of it this past couple of weeks, and to know there might be some light at the end of the road is a good thought,” Gonzalez said. “She’s a loving caring mother of four. She’s very involved in the community – loves to go to church. She’s amazing.”

The ACLU called Gonzalez the “perfect candidate” for the procedure if she can recover well enough for surgery.

A spokesman for the organization said she doesn’t have a history of prior medical conditions, substances abuse or other otherwise eliminating factors.

OHSU officials told FOX 12 that they aren’t aware of any other circumstances at the hospital where someone has been denied medical care based on citizenship status.

Lesama-Santos’ family has raised nearly $5,000 to cover her medical expenses and have a GoFundMe campaign where the public can send donations.

Family members said they are able to still speak to their mother, although she is often confused as a result of her liver failure.

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