Chicago – The lives of three Mexican brothers in Chicago who are suffering from a rare genetic disease depend on liver transplants, but the immigration situation of two of them is making their chances of survival more problematic.
Elfego Arroyo can scarcely climb the stairs to his second-floor apartment.
"My feet don't respond," Elfego told Efe, adding that a year ago he was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare illness that results in protein deposits in the body that can interfere with the functioning of an organ or tissue.
The illness, which is hereditary and apparently incurable, is what caused the death of the trio's mother, Isabel Montoya, 10 years ago.
"When my blood pressure falls, I fall down, and I've already hit my face twice," said 37-year-old Elfego, who cannot go out anywhere alone.
Elfego is undocumented and therefore he does not qualify to be cared for in a hospital, but he also cannot work due to the effects of the illness.
Not only Elfego, but also his brothers Francisco and Lorenzo Arroyo are seeking liver transplants.
Francisco is the only one of the three who is a legal resident and thus he is the one who has the best chance of receiving a new organ.
"Since they diagnosed me two years ago, I've been on a waiting list and they told me that in about three months they can give me a liver transplant," he said.
Francisco, 38, told Efe that before he was diagnosed, he had started to lose his sense of taste and in a few months he went from 155 to 116 pounds.
In contrast to Elfego and Lorenzo, Francisco continues to work and has health insurance.
Lorenzo, 34, was diagnosed with the illness in February.
"I went to get a checkup due to what happened to my brothers. I already knew that it was hereditary and besides that, I was losing weight," said Lorenzo, who is married but has no children.
Elfego, with three kids, and Francisco, with four, are now afraid that they may have transmitted the awful disease to their offspring.
"This illness has really affected me a lot," said Francisco. "I think about my kids because they also told me that they are at risk of contracting this disease. There is a 50 percent probability. And I think about my brothers also. For them, the situation is more difficult because they don't have papers."
Apart from the fear of passing the disease to their children, Elfego is bothered by not being able to work, and since his wife recently also lost her job, their children do not have some of the things they need.
"I want my children to grow up like normal kids, they need things that they see that other kids have," he said.
Upon learning about the Arroyo brothers' case, Chicago's Hispanic community began to mobilize itself to seek help for them.
Organizations and friends of the family opened a bank account for donations to the "Save the Lives of the Arroyo Brothers Project - Trust Fund."
"The people who can contribute a dollar or 50 cents, whatever they want, that would be a lot so that we could go to a hospital or find a place where they have the resources," said Elfego.
A liver transplant can cost up to $30,000.