Carla Nava was playing with her four-year-old son Tuesday afternoon, helping him put together a puzzle. She then stops to look at him with a smile and pulls him close as she gives him a kiss.
A few months ago, this is something she feared she would lose forever.
On September 4, 2018 Nava and her family was enjoying a family dinner at a restaurant in Juarez. Her 4-year-old son Gael Canizales, was sitting near a window looking out and his father had his arm wrapped around him.
That was when a bullet struck through the window and hit Gael, along with his father’s arm.
“Thanks to God he let my son live, but it was still hours of horror,” Nava said in Spanish.
Nava said the bullet hit her son in the waist and there was lots of blood. It caused damage to his spine and kidney, leaving Gael unable to walk and in need of a kidney transplant.
Nava said her son was then taken to the hospital in Juarez when doctors discovered his other kidney was not functioning either. He was later transferred to El Paso Children’s Hospital.
Gael now goes to dialysis treatments three times a week and is in a wheelchair or carried by his mother.
Nava says he has gone through many operations, at least three major ones, and says they are in and out of the hospital every other week.
For now Gael is stable at home with his family as they await his complete recovery.
She says the family had to stop working when the shooting happened, and they face financial challenges with medical bills.
According to the Southwest Transplant Alliance (STA) more than 70% of the 10,000 people waiting in Texas are minorities, however they say the wait time for children is typically less than adults because they usually have priority in allocation.
“The greatest difficulty when on a transplant waiting list is the wait itself. We have a vast number of people needing a transplant and not enough donors to actually make a difference to that need,” Faith Borunda, STA Regional Director, said.
Borunda also says it is common for people to be on multiple transplant lists to increase their chances at finding a matching donor.
According to Borunda the need for donors is high. She says roughly every 10 minutes, someone is added to the waiting list and on average, 20 people die every day waiting.
Nava says they need to go to a hospital in San Antonio to better his chances at finding a kidney, but they can’t go until he is fully recovered. Nava hopes by March they can go.
“We’re waiting to start his physical therapy and hopefully it works well even though it will take some time, but hopefully in the future, he’ll be able to walk again.”