MERIDEN — A 20-year-old city woman and Maloney High School graduate is urgently seeking a donor for a kidney transplant.
Barietta L. Rodriguez was a senior in early 2017 when she began experiencing symptoms, including vomiting, migraines, and itchy spells. In December of that year, doctors diagnosed her with lupus-nephritis, an autoimmune disease that caused her kidneys to fail.
Until then, she dreamed of attending college to become an English teacher.
“My life was totally flipped upside down out of nowhere,” Rodriguez said. “They said that lupus caused kidney failure and that I was at about 15 to 20 percent kidney function at that time.”
Lupus causes the immune system to attack its own cells and organs. Damage to the kidneys, which filter extra water and waste from blood to make urine, is one of the most common problems with lupus, according to the National Institute of Health. Nine out of 10 people who have lupus are women, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Following her diagnosis, doctors placed Rodriguez on strong immunodepressant medications and forced her to quit two jobs she held due to concerns that being around others made her more susceptible to getting sick. Since her kidneys cannot filter toxins, Rodriguez is also undergoing regular dialysis treatments, for which she had to have a catheter surgically placed into her veins.
Rodriguez has been searching for a potential donor since beginning dialysis treatment in October. Finding a donor with Rodriguez’s blood type, O-negative, would be ideal, but a match isn’t necessary, she said.
“It’s preferable that we would get a match because the match would go directly to me,” Rodriguez said. “But if someone is just healthy enough and they’re cleared by the hospital, what they do is a swap program. So there would be a circle of people switching to each other that are matches.”
Rodriguez said she has been trying to get the word out by posting on social media.
“It would mean everything to us,” Rodriguez’s mom, Barietta A. Rodriguez, said about receiving a kidney donation.
Despite being in and out of the hospital for dialysis, Barietta A. Rodriguez said her daughter has remained active. She volunteers for Prom Angels Foundation, a nonprofit that supplies prom dresses to those who can’t afford one, and during food giveaways at her local church.
“She’s just a great person and not because she’s my daughter, she really is a great person,” Rodriguez’s mother said. “She’s all about helping and the community and I know if she got better she would do so much more.”
Her daughter has had “ups and downs” over the past few years but has tried to remain positive. She has been getting support from her fiance, whom she began dating a few months before her diagnosis in December 2017.
Dealing with her illness is made harder by seeing her friends and classmates succeed without limitations.
“All my peers have gone to college already, they’re working their job, they’re earning money, they’re traveling, and I’m stuck at home going to dialysis,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez’s limitations also include a ban on some of her favorite activities, like swimming and walking, and a heavily restricted diet.
“I didn’t even know how important the kidneys actually were,” she said.
In June, doctors will determine whether to place her on the active kidney donation list, making her eligible for a transplant. Rodriguez’s medical insurance will cover all of the donor’s costs, she said.
Those interested in donating a kidney should call Hartford Hospital’s Transplant Program at (860) 972-9918 for more information. Potential donors will be required to set up a screening appointment before donating. Donors cannot have diseases, be pregnant or diabetic, and must have functioning kidneys to donate.