Sunday, May 19, 2024

Transplant Program in Chicago Serves Hispanics

A unique transplant program run entirely in Spanish at a hospital in Chicago is drawing Hispanics from all over the country and even abroad seeking the live-saving procedure.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital started the program in December of 2006, which is the only one known of its kind, providing care in a “culturally-sensitive manner.”

“I realized there was a big Hispanic community that was not receiving the attention it needed,” Dr. Juan Carlos Caicedo, a transplant surgeon and director of the program, said.  Hispanic patients from all over the country and even Puerto Rico have sought kidney transplants at the hospital he says.

“Something that really surprised me was hearing a patient say that he had called 10 different transplant centers, but because they all answered the phone in English, he would hang up. He was scared,” Caicedo said.

The number of kidney transplants in Hispanic patients at the hospital has nearly doubled since 2005 from 22 to 41 this year.   Now, the hospital is also providing liver transplants.

In the US, there are 90,000 people on the waiting list to get a kidney with 16,000 being Hispanic, according to the director of external communications for the National Kidney Foundation, Ellie Schlam.

There are 24 Spanish-speaking staff members that make up the program.  These include nurses, nephrologists, cardiologists, social workers and accountants, etc.  In a statement made in August by the hospital, it said it also offers educational sessions in Spanish “where entire families can be present to learn about the disease and treatment options.”

“It was very intelligent to offer a transplant program in Spanish. Hispanics are shy when it comes to confronting a language they don’t know about,” Raiza Mendoza, coordinator of Hispanic outreach for the non-profit Gift of Hope, Organ and Tissue Donor Network, in Illinois, said. “This has been incredibly positive.”

Chicago Tribune