Fighting For My Life: This Is My Story

By Jorge Mariscal 

I came to this country when I was one year old.   I went to school here in Melrose Park, IL and graduated from here.  I’m undocumented, but I didn’t know that growing up–I thought I would be able to get a job just like any of my friends, and go to the university here.  I found out when I was in high school.   I was so excited because I thought I was going to get my driver’s license.  I was signing up for a class called “Behind the Wheel.”  But then my mom told me, “Even if you take that class, you won’t be able to get a license because you’re undocumented, and you don’t have a social security number.”  So that’s when I started realizing that I wouldn’t be able to get a job, or get government loans for college.

It was hard to take, but I didn’t let it overcome me.  I didn’t just give up that easily.   But then when I was sixteen I started getting all these symptoms– I couldn’t eat, I was nauseated and tired all the time.  When I went to get checked out,  the doctors told us they were surprised that I was still alive because with the results that they were seeing, I should have been dead.  I had kidney failure, and I would need dialysis in the short term, and a kidney transplant as soon as possible.

I was lost.  I thought I was just going to die at the hospital.  People have asked me before, did you have faith to get you through that?  I did have faith, but in that moment it all came crashing down.  I thought there is no God.  All the faith I did have was gone, because I thought that was it for me.  I mean, what’s the point of having faith if I’m done?  But my mom started talking to me, and had pastors talk to me in the hospital, and they told me that you have to have faith.  If God wanted you dead, you would have been gone already.  God is keeping you alive for a reason.  Slowly I started praying more, and my faith did get me through those hard times.

I’ve been on dialysis for six years.  We are still struggling to find a hospital that will offer a surgery at a price that we can pay with no insurance.  But we’re a lot better now than we were before-what I mean is that we have a lot of support from a lot of people.  My church, Iglesia Unida de Berwyn UCC, and Arturo Mota, a Village Trustee in Melrose Park, are helping with fundraisers, and with looking for a hospital that would offer the surgery at a lower price.  A couple people have volunteered to donate their own kidneys if they are found to be a compatible donor.  At first I was afraid to even tell my story, since I’m undocumented and there is always the risk that they could put me in deportation proceedings.  But after I knew I wasn’t alone anymore, I stopped being so scared.

I continued school–I finished high school, and I still wanted to continue my education.  I took some college courses–I have some college experience and I plan to get an associate’s degree in graphic design and web page design.  But now I haven’t been able to continue that because of my illness.  It’s either you pay for medicine, or for tuition.  I have to deal with it, but it’s not like I’m never going to go back to school.   It’s just that the most important thing right now is to get healthy.

As hard as it is to believe, it’s all part of God’s plan.  I have to leave everything up to Him.  The only thing I can do, is do what the doctors say, and pray.  And it’s been working so far.  I don’t plan on losing faith again.  I know that God will help me through this, and will grant me my wish of getting a new kidney.  I’m hopeful through this because I know He’s on my side.  And I’ve felt His presence.  I was scared to death before every surgery because I heard so many stories of people dying on the surgery table.  And I would pray, and I would get this feeling like, hey, everything’s going to be ok.  I’m in good hands.

To all of you reading this article, I want to you know that everyone sometimes asks, “What’s the point?”   Before you start saying that you have it hard, you should look at other people, because I’m guaranteeing you other people have it worse than you.  You should appreciate even the small things in life.  It may sound like a cliché but it’s true- you should enjoy life.  You never know when it’s going to be your time, or when you’re going to be hit with something big like I was.  Live it happy, and go to church.  Believing in God does get you through a lot of things in life.

My mother started a hunger strike on Sunday June 3rd, 2012 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Catholic Mission. The reason why this hunger strike was started is because we want these medical centers to stop discriminating against us and others and to give us the medical treatment we urgently need! It’s a great injustice that the administration at Loyola Medical Center and UIC Medical Center turn away the undocumented all because we do not have a piece of paper. Loyola, being a catholic organization, does not follow the word of God which is Life comes first above all else yet they value money more than a human life.

One way to help is to become an organ donor.  You can do it by just filling out a couple forms.  We all have an expiration date, you know?  I’m very, very thankful for everyone who has been helping out in any way; for everyone who God has sent my way.

Jorge is an undocumented student and youth member of Iglesia Unida United Church of Christ, Berwyn.

For more details about the hunger strike please contact Fr. Landaverde,

To get involved in the effort to get a kidney transplant for Jorge, please contact Rev. Sara Wohlleb, Congregational Coordinator of the Chicago New Sanctuary Coaltion,

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