SARASOTA/MANATEE FARMWORKER SUPPORTERS
4517 Ascot Circle South, Sarasota, Florida 34235
Sarasota/Manatee Farmworker Supporters is a branch of the National Farmworker Ministry
Alejandro Reyes, President
Marvin Mills, Secretary and President Emeritus
OCTOBER 2006 NEWSLETTER
The Sarasota/Manatee Farmworker Supporters presents
Dying to Live: A Migrant’s Journey
“Dying to Live” is a profound look at the human face of the migrant. It explores who these people are, why they leave their homes and what they face in their journey to the United States. A discussion of the film will take place after its viewing.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Juliana Mateo, second from left, sits by her sister, Dolores Mateo, left, her mother, Maria Miguel, right, and her daughter, Fabiola Mateo, 3, in their Palmetto home Tuesday. Local residents are setting up a fundraiser to help Juliana pay for kidney dialysis and surgery.
By CHRISTINA E. SANCHEZ
How to help
MANATEE COUNTY -- If Juliana Mateo misses another kidney dialysis treatment this week, she probably will die.
Mateo waits in a small Palmetto home surrounded by 13 relatives for one of two things: help or death.
Mateo, 28, is not eligible for health insurance or government funding because she is an undocumented immigrant. She is a former farmworker, so she has no income. She moved from Guatemala to Florida 14 years ago with her family.
Health care options for illegal immigrants are limited and have become even more so in the wake of the national immigration debate. Proponents of an immigration system overhaul say illegals are a burden on hospitals and drive up health-care costs.
But her dire situation transcends the immigration debate. She is worried about dying and leaving her three children, all born in the United States, without a mother. She has two boys, ages 5 and 10, and a girl, age 3. Their father is not around.
A few local Good Samaritans, including some leaders in the local Latino community, have set up a trust fund to raise money. Thousands are needed for dialysis, a series of tests to find a possible kidney donor in her family, and possibly transplant surgery.
Time is running out, however, said Adriana Cerrillo, a student at the University of South Florida who wants to help Mateo.
"A human is a human whether a person has documents or doesn't have documents, no matter what color a person is or where a person is from," said Cerrillo. "We can't treat her like an animal and just let her die."
For three months, Mateo received dialysis treatment at Manatee Memorial Hospital. The hospital discharged her Thursday because she cannot pay.
Her family said the hospital offered to pay to send Mateo back to her native country of Guatemala, to see if she could get treatment.
Manatee Memorial officials wouldn't comment on the case, a spokeswoman said.
Mateo said returning to Guatemala would be a death sentence. Government hospitals there are full, and she cannot afford private care, said her sister, Dolores Mateo.
Money is tight for the family. Fourteen people, including Mateo's 65-year-old mother, her sister, her sister's husband and a total of 10 children, are crammed into a deteriorating, small three-bedroom house in Palmetto.
Cerrillo and Mateo's sister spoke on her behalf to tell her story Tuesday. Mateo talked in spurts after brief rests and between sobs.
Frequent headaches and pain in her lower back sent Mateo to the hospital about two years ago. After seven days in a hospital in West Palm Beach, they told her she was fine and could leave. But they never explained what was wrong with her.
She continued to work on farms in Homestead and picked vegetables in the fields until she felt as though her "body was dying," she said.
In June, she moved to Palmetto where her sister and mother live.
Her children are the reason she doesn't want to return to Guatemala.
"If anyone can help, please. I need help," Mateo said in Spanish. "I want to stay with my three children."
All of Mateo's family is in the United States, said Martha Ramirez, of the Healthy Start Coalition of Manatee County, a non-profit which helps pregnant women.
"Basically, she has been given two options: She has the option to die here with her family or die alone in Guatemala," Ramirez said.
Ramirez got involved in the case when Mateo called her. Ramirez visited the hospital the day before Mateo was discharged.
"Once I met her, I said to myself, 'How can I not help her?'" Ramirez said. "I am human. I see her suffering and I cannot be indifferent. I can't go to sleep and say it's not my business."
Ramirez reached out to others in the community, including Cerrillo and local attorney C.J. Czaia. They are working on the fundraising campaign.
"Someone has to help her. I cannot do it alone," Ramirez said. "She told me, 'If I pass away, fine. That is part of life. I believe in God. But I have my kids.'"
October 3 update
Manatee County has created a non-profit 501(c)(3) foundation to collect funds for Juliana. Juliana needed treatment last week and Tampa General Hospital agreed to giver her dialysis. It is unknown how many treatments they will give her before they ask her to leave the hospital, as Manatee Memorial Hospital did earlier. Funds are needed for dialysis every two days. The hospital said that she might need to have dialysis all her life or she can have a kidney transplant. If the kidney transplant operation is successful then she will not have to have any more dialysis. Her family members will be checked to see if any of them can donate a kidney. Then we will need money for surgery.
People interested in giving funds can make checks payable to: Juliana Mateo Foundation and mail them to: Juliana Mateo Foundation, P.O. Box 599, Palmetto, FL 34220. The Foundation is just for her so there are no administrative costs. I was told 100% of the donations received will be used for Juliana’s medical expenses. For questions about the foundation, people can call: Adriana Cerrillo at 941-526-9840.
Sarasota/Manatee Farmworker Supporters
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State: _____________________ Zip Code: _______________
4517 Ascot Circle South
Sarasota, Florida 34235
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