Immigrant in NYC survives kidney transplant and COVID-19 “miraculously”

He was one of the first patients hospitalized for coronavirus in the Big Apple, and today he values ​​the medical care he received while being undocumented and without resources

On two occasions the Dominican Miguel Salazar, 45, of the Bronx, he has been on the border between life and death. First, in his country he faced kidney disease that led to a complicated kidney transplant operation. Years later, while he followed the path of his dreams in the Big Apple, was one of the thousands of patients who almost “does not live to tell about it”: he was infected with COVID-19 with the threat of a very delicate pre-existing situation.

I was 21 days in the Intensive Care Unit of the Hospital Bellevue en Manhattan, it was miraculous how I can be fully recovered after I was close to death. My lungs were very affected by the virus, but after one month and 27 days intern, I managed to get out. The doctors did not faint, ”says Miguel excitedly.

He Quisqueyan born in Santiago was probably one of the first infected that swelled the emergencies and required to be intubated due to acute respiratory complications, when the pandemic began to take hold in New York early March. At that time, hospitals were starting to be almost a scene of “war” in the face of the growing number of infected.

“When I felt that I could no longer deal with the pain in my body and the fever, I went to Lincoln Hospital in The Bronx. Then from there they referred me to Bellevue, where they saved me. My friends from Santo Domingo transplanted who caught the virus there on the island, all died. They did not count it. It is very difficult to face a transplant and COVID-19 at the same time”Shared the immigrant who today walks the streets feeling healthy.

Miguel Salazar, the Santiago-born Quisqueyan is ready to resume his life. (Photo: F. Martínez)

According to a study by Montefiore Medical Center of New York City which reveals the results of 36 patients with transplanted kidneys who were diagnosed with the new viral disease, between March 16 and April 1, it is highlighted that the total registered very complicated pictures. And a third of them died, reports the New England Journal.

“In fear I shut myself up”

The experience of Venezuelan Luis Marcó, 46 years old and Also a resident of The Bronx, who fled the South American nation’s growing drug shortage five years ago, is different. Likewise, he contracted COVID-19 in mid-March, but with an aggravation: is HIV positive.

“When I started to feel bad, I immediately sensed that it was the coronavirus and at that moment all this was very new and confusing. The tests were not accessible. I didn’t know what to do and it was already a week with a fever and a discomfort that I felt was killing me. I treat my condition and receive my treatment through a non-profit organization in Queens. In this case, she did not know what to do. I don’t have insurance, ”he said.

Luis decided not to go to any hospital and like thousands of New York immigrants with the symptoms of the new virus, he waited, as he himself describes, “To the grace of God.”

“I locked myself up. I took several boxes of painkillers for those three weeks. I had hot lemonades, home remedies. By having a condition that compromises my defenses, I thought this was the end But it was not like that. It didn’t touch me. I had no respiratory problems, ”he said.

The Quisqueyano shares his experience so that immigrants do not fear going to a hospital. (Photo: F. Martínez)

Access to the undocumented

Behind each of his stories, the Dominican Miguel Salazar and Venezuelan Luis Matías They share several interwoven threads. Today they are survivors of coronavirus, face chronic health conditions, are immigrants and Due to their legal status, they do not apply to medical insurance.

“I can attest, based on my experience, that not having papers in this city does not keep you from being treated in a city health center with all considerations and without fear of any kind. I was hospitalized for weeks and treated with great dignity ”, Miguel emphasizes.

Last November, when the pandemic did not even appear in the world, the Dominican by chance saw announcements of the programa ‘NYC Care’ an initiative of Health+Hospitals (H+H), the agency that administers the 11 Public Hospitals of the City. It is a health care access plan for New Yorkers who cannot afford or are not eligible for health insurance. Including the undocumented.

“I have to take immunosuppressive drugs for life and this program guaranteed me access to them, since last year. And finally somehow saved my life. I know of many people who, due to all the rumors that exist, are terrified of going to be treated. So they are dying ”, he commented.

Since the launch of ‘NYC Care’ in August 2019 in the Bronx and its expansion to Brooklyn and Staten Island in January 2020, nearly 30,000 New Yorkers have signed up and obtained access to medical care.

Stephanie Guzmán, H + H spokesperson, details that this plan was expanded throughout the city on September 1, four months ahead of schedule.

“It is the largest and most comprehensive initiative in the country to guarantee medical care, regardless of immigration status or ability to pay,” said the official.

Some 19 community organizations will enroll more beneficiaries in the five boroughs as of September 1. (Photo: Courtesy)

Palanca post COVID-19

He doctor Mitchell Katz, Executive Director of H + H, clarified that the vision of this program is to strengthen primary care.

“With our determination, NYC Care will be a lever to help overcome the historic health disparities brought to light by the pandemic. This will be key during the period of post-COVID-19 recovery ″, razona Katz.

Many immigrants from New York City, such as Venezuelan Luis Matías, are afraid of having interaction with hospitals for fear of thousands of dollars ‘biles’ and also by the new norm of ‘public charge‘approved by the federal government that would affect those who have been beneficiaries of social assistance programs.

“I receive my antiretroviral drugs through a non-profit organization, there are supposed to be no records. I am afraid of receiving another type of help that in the future will complicate the possibility of legalizing myself. It’s a complicated circle, ”Luis thinks.

The authorities of New York City during the pandemic responded several times to the concern of this immigrant, who like thousands, prefer not to have interaction with health centers. In some cases because They assume they will ask for documentation.

In the midst of this public health crisis, which although controlled is far from over, Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner for Migration Affairs of the Mayor’s Office (MOIA) has reiterated and given guarantees that none of the data of the beneficiaries of the social and health plans managed by the local administration, they are shared with no other state or federal agency.

What is NYC Care?

  • It is a health care access program that guarantees low-cost and no-cost services offered by NYC Health + Hospitals to New Yorkers who do not qualify for or cannot afford health insurance under federal guidelines. Those who are eligible for health insurance will be directed to the MetroPlus health plan.

Who apply?

  • You must have been living in New York City for six months or more.
  • You should not qualify for any health insurance plan available in New York State.
  • If you do not qualify for NYC Care or any health insurance plan, you may be eligible for services under the NYC Health + Hospitals Options program.

What are the services?

  • You can choose your own primary care provider.
  • Preventive care like immunizations, routine exams, and mammograms to stay healthy.
  • Mental health support and substance abuse services.
  • Access to low-cost prescription drugs.
  • Support from a primary care team that includes nurses, medical assistants, social workers, pharmacists, and nutritionists.

How much?

  • There are no membership fees, monthly fees, or premiums. Your cost for health care is based on your family size and income.

More information?

If you require more information in Spanish call 646-6922273 visit the web site:


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