By the time Maria Lopez is sick enough to qualify for emergency kidney dialysis, she can hardly catch her breath, her head is pounding and she’s throwing up. It feels, she said, like her “days are numbered.”
And this happens to her once every week.
Lopez, 48, has end-stage renal disease, meaning her kidneys no longer flush toxins and fluid from her blood. Normally, patients whose kidneys have failed hook up to dialysis machines three times per week, on schedule. But Lopez does not qualify because she is an immigrant living in the country illegally.
In Colorado, such immigrants receive dialysis only as an emergency action to save their lives, which can cost far more than regular treatment. About every seven days, they show up in a hospital emergency room — often feeling like they are drowning from the fluid in their chest — and are admitted for care under federal law that requires hospitals to treat people whose lives are in danger.