New York Times Neediest Cases

Cancer Cost Him a Kidney. The Pandemic Delayed A Transplant.


When Robert Sanchez needed dialysis, he had to be cautious about travel for treatment.Credit...Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

New Yorkers with medical issues faced additional burdens in lockdown, balancing protecting their health and staying afloat.

By Remy Tumin, The New York Times 

Robert Sanchez has spent much of his life waiting for the other shoe to drop.

At age 19, he began serving 15 years in prison for drug possession, and afterward, he dedicated himself to helping others who had been in similar situations. Then eight years after his release, he was told he was in rapid kidney failure and had just two weeks to live.

Mr. Sanchez, 52, found himself once again in this familiar Ping-Pong in December. A few days before he was set to receive his second kidney transplant, he learned he had kidney cancer.

After the cancerous kidney was removed, he was ready to try again for the transplant when the coronavirus pandemic hit New York City. As the city came to a grinding halt, Mr. Sanchez’s operation was postponed.

“I remember feeling, wow, this is just another thing I had to overcome like I’ve overcome so much in my life,” he said. “I was asking myself, when does it end? When do things get better?”

Money was already running short. Sometimes, he found himself walking the two miles to the dialysis center, fearing that taking public transportation would expose him to the virus.

Mr. Sanchez, who receives $900 a month in Social Security Disability Insurance, would pay the essential bills he could, provide for his two small dogs and try to save enough to take a ride share to his dialysis appointments three times a week. When that wasn’t possible, he’d ask a city bus driver to let him ride free as he walked home.

“I would get tired because of my disease, so every now and then I would stop to catch my breath and keeping moving,” Mr. Sanchez said last month from his home in the Bronx.

As he tried to balance all these needs, Mr. Sanchez was repeatedly missing meals.

The dialysis treatments of the previous months had left him feeling exhausted, and he had to quit his job at a nonprofit working with incarcerated men.

“I liked the job because it was an opportunity for me to reach young men who, for whatever reason, are stuck in this place where they need guidance,” Mr. Sanchez said. “There aren’t many people to help guide them.”

In August, Mr. Sanchez found support when he was introduced to Catholic Charities Community Services. The group is part of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York, one of 10 organizations supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. Through The Fund, Mr. Sanchez received $250 for food delivery, $200 for transportation and $150 for cleaning services.

“When you grow up the way I grew up, you’re not used to asking for help,” Mr. Sanchez said. “The humbling part is learning how to do that now and to be open to it. And to say, you know, I could use a hand, and admit to somebody, I’m not doing well.”

Continue to the full article at The New York Times.

Reprinted with permission from The New York Times Company - Original Title: Cancer Cost Him a Kidney. The Pandemic Delayed a Transplant.​