Soccer star sidelined with kidney failure |

Soccer star sidelined with kidney failure

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Cesar Hernandez plays for Carson City in the U-16 division, and wants to play professional soccer when he gets older. His normal position is forward, but since getting sick, he doesn't have the energy, so he's moved to goalie.

Watching his teammates scramble for control of the ball, 16-year-old Carson High student Cesar Hernandez wishes he could be attacking the goal with them.

His favorite position is forward, but these days he plays goalie. Playing the field saps his energy too fast, and he can’t make it the whole game.

“I get winded too quickly,” Cesar said.

His kidneys are failing, and the treatment that would save his life isn’t available because he’s not an American citizen. Hearing his story, teachers, friends and members of the community have rallied behind him, raising almost $9,000 to save his life.

Until six months ago, Cesar was a normal high school student. He got good grades, liked science, and spent every free minute playing with his sister, 3-year-old Itzel, or on a soccer field. But he noticed he was getting tired quickly – a new experience for him.

It was that fatigue that prompted him to go see trainers at Carson High school for a checkup in November. They told him his blood pressure was really high, and asked him to come back in a couple months to follow up.

When his pressure didn’t change in February, they sent him to the doctor for blood tests.

The tests showed he was in renal failure, meaning his kidneys were failing rapidly, and would soon quit working completely. He would need dialysis and eventually a transplant if he was going to survive.

“His kidney function isn’t good,” said Dr. Bryan Ricks, who initially treated Cesar. “They are failing, and unfortunately they aren’t going to come back from this.”

One of the main functions of the kidneys is to clean toxins from the blood and remove them from the body through urine. When they don’t function correctly, the toxins accumulate and can cause other organs, like the heart, to fail.

“We live in a very narrow range of balances, and if we are out of that balance, even a little bit, it can quickly become deadly,” Ricks said. “This is pretty rare for it to happen to a child his age. It usually occurs in older people.”

His kidney function is about 20 percent of normal.

“From the doctors I’ve talked to, he needs to be on a transplant list very soon,” Ricks said.

If he is put on the transplant list, Cesar would be one of 253 people in Nevada waiting for a kidney transplant and one of eight children under age 18 waiting for a new kidney, according to the National Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

The problem is, Cesar is an undocumented immigrant. He moved to Nevada with his mother, Rosa Ibarra, from Mexico when he was 4. His mother cleans houses, his father isn’t around, and the family can’t afford insurance that will make the dialysis and transplant possible.

He has been approved by Medicaid as a medical emergency, which means that he can get the dialysis necessary to keep him alive.

But dialysis isn’t a permanent solution. It only helps until a transplant can be found and isn’t effective much longer than five years.

However, federal regulations prohibit Medicaid from providing organ transplants to undocumented aliens, meaning Cesar and his family won’t get financial assistance for a transplant in Nevada.

This leaves them with three options: They can move to California, establish residency and apply for Medi-Cal, which does provide transplants; return to Mexico where a transplant would be cheaper; or raise the estimated $145,000 to pay for the transplant.

“We want to do the transplant, but if we can’t raise the money it will have to be dialysis,” said Ibarra.

Once the transplant is complete, Cesar would be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life. Those drugs cost at least $3,000 a month.

Since his diagnosis, Cesar’s family has received help through numerous fundraisers from his friends and teachers at Carson High School, as well as other members of the community.

To date, the effort has raised more than $8,500 to help defray the costs of blood tests every two weeks and trips to California for doctor’s appointments.

While his mom tries to figure out the best long-term solution, Cesar takes $125 worth of pills that slow the failure and gets $200 blood tests twice a month.

Since his diagnosis, Ibarra has been working seven days a week to raise money for her son.

“I would work 24 hours a day if it would help him,” Ibarra said.

While the last four months have seen a lot of changes to Cesar’s life, not playing soccer is the one that hurts the most.

“The hardest thing is not being able to play forward, everything else that comes up I can deal with,” Cesar said. “I want to keep playing soccer and get my life back to the way it used to be. To get back to a place where I don’t have to worry,” he said.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at or 881-1217.

You can help

What: Fundraiser breakfast for Cesar Hernandez

When: 8 a.m. -12:30 p.m. today

Where: Carson City Senior Center

Cost: $5 for breakfast

An account has been designated for donations to help defray medical expenses for Cesar. Donations can be made to Greater Nevada Credit Union, Acct. 873601.


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