2011-05-06 / Community

Rockaway Resident Gave Her Mother The Gift Of Life

By Kahalia Solano


Kathleen Henry and her mother. Kathleen Henry and her mother. A woman uncomfortable with the word ‘hero,’ after saving her own mother’s life, exemplifies the meaning of ‘ethos.’ Character is something some build; for others it is an innate ability to do what they trust is right. While most dash toward spotlight after a good deed, the mere mention of the word ‘hero’ breeds bothersome emotions for Rockaway resident Kathleen Henry.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that, when faced with a daunting matter concerning your mother’s life or demise the decision is instinctive and clear. Do what it takes to keep the one you love alive. Although this is so, it still takes a certain caliber of person to go through with the feat.

For a loving daughter who regards her mother as the most incredible and giving woman in the world, the decision came easily. Don’t call it an act of bravery, because Henry doesn’t want any praise for it. “It wasn’t self-less, it was selfish because I wanted to save my mother,” Henry said. Henry’s 65- year-old mother, Kathleen Martinez, has had a 27-year-long struggle with diabetes. Martinez eventually suffered from renal failure, otherwise known as kidney failure.

According to Kidney.org, the website of the National Kidney Foundation, diabetes is a disease in which your body does not make enough insulin or cannot use enough amounts of it properly. Insulin is a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in your blood.

The organization states that with diabetes, small blood vessels in the body are injured. When the blood vessels in the kidney are injured, your kidneys cannot clean your blood properly. This often results in renal failure, which occurs when your kidneys are no longer able to support the body in a reasonably healthy state. After renal failure, dialysis or kidney transplantation is needed.

Henry’s mother, Martinez, was placed on dialysis for approximately 9- 10 months. She was also put on a National Donor Waiting List. According to Kidney.org, many people who need transplants of organs and tissues cannot get them due to a shortage of donations.

Every month, more than 2,000 new names are added to the national waiting list for organ transplants. Approximately 18 people in the US die every day while waiting for an organ transplant. The alarming statistics would leave anyone trampled with a sense of defeat.

No longer willing to leave it to fate, Henry aggressively sought a solution. “I knew that with my mother’s age, she would be lower on the list. I also knew that her odds were better with a living donor,” Henry said.

She launched forward and never looked back. A second thought about her decision to give her mother a kidney never existed. “It was a great gift for me to be able to do this,” Henry said.

After the choice was made, Henry was met with roadblocks. The first hospital denied the kidney transplant surgery because Henry’s father is a diabetic. Physicians did not want to risk Henry having possible complications in the future if she developed diabetes down the road.

Henry’s next roadblock consisted of convincing her mother to go along with the plan. “I didn’t want to take anything from my daughter,” Martinez said. “After the first hospital’s surgery denial I was just going to continue on dialysis, but my daughter said that all hospitals were not the same,” she said.

Against her mother’s advice, Henry continued her quest to find a hospital that would perform the surgery. “I kept trying to let her know that she did not have to go through with this,” Martinez said.

The journey to find the right hospital eventually ended. On January 26, 2011 at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, mother and daughter both lay in recovery rooms after the organ transplant.

The roles reversed and the one who gave life now received it. “How do you ever repay someone for giving the gift of life?” Martinez said. “I feel grateful and I am in awe of my daughter’s generosity, but anyone who knows Kathleen knows that she is an openhearted soul, that is just who she is and I am lucky to be her mother,” Martinez said.

When asked where Henry’s source of strength came from through the ordeal, she credited it to her entire family’s support.

Henry’s brothers, husband and stepfather offered an unwavering foundation of courage that kept her vigorous spirit alive. “I want you to know that this is not about me; my whole family had something to do with it,” Henry said.

Henry attributed her mother’s current stability primarily to the help of her stepfather, Angel Martinez. Henry also insisted that he be praised for his efforts. “My stepfather and mother have been together for 38 years; he dispenses all of her medicine and takes her to all of the doctors appointments,” she said.

Henry and Martinez embody the true essence of Mother’s Day. It should co-exist with reflection and an appreciation for the impact of the relationship a mother and child often share. “I have a kidney that functions, I have lessons, and I am so grateful to have that opportunity,” Martinez said.

Henry reflected on the unforgettable experience. “My mother was forced to retire from her career as a psychiatric nurse due to her illness. It was an honor to give life back to the woman who gave me life,” she said.

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