What happens when an undocumented teen needs a new heart — and a lot of money? 

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Before, she says, the doctor told her that she needed a $100,000 down payment to get her son's name on a transplant waiting list for a new heart. Now, she says, the doctor has told her that she needs the full $500,000 for the operation. They're trying to find a hospital to take his case, Loredo adds, but the doctor tells her that many don't accept "international cases."

Loredo hears a code in that phrase.

"Es porque no tengo papeles," she says.

It's because she doesn't have papers —immigration papers.

Downstairs, in the pharmacy, the waiting area is crowded with parents and noisy with children. As one man elbows toward the door, he does a double take at the lanky teenager in the red Ecko sweatshirt.

"Good luck, man," he says, nodding toward Eduardo. "I saw you on TV."

Eduardo pulls the hood of his jacket over his head, embarrassed by this evidence of growing media attention. His mother hopes the exposure will save his life.


Three years ago, Loredo brought her son and daughter to Kansas City from Chihuahua, Mexico. Like her sister, Iris, who arrived in 2000, Loredo came looking for work. She found it ironing clothes at a local laundry. Together, the extended family of two women and five children settled in a small house in Kansas City, Kansas, that faced a vacant lot littered with piles of trash.

Eduardo picked up English quickly. He went to Rosedale Middle School and then Wyandotte High School and slipped seamlessly into the MySpace-checking, cell-phone-texting teenage culture. He never took to rock and hip-hop, instead listening to Mexican corri­dos, traditional ballads of heroes overcoming adversity or finding love.

An avid soccer player, Eduardo wasn't a kid who gave any indication of frailty, Loredo says. Because her paycheck was small, she never purchased a private health-insurance plan. The last week of June 2009, when Eduardo developed a cough, Loredo took him to Turner House Children's Clinic, on North 12th Street in KCK), which treats low-income patients. The doctor told her that Eduardo had a virus. Take him home, have him rest and give him liquids, he advised.

"Every time he ate, he would throw up," Loredo says through an interpreter.

"He felt really tired, like he'd just done some really hard work," Iris adds.

Four days later, the teenager's ankles started to swell. When Loredo took him back to Turner, the doctors were alarmed. "The clinic didn't want to tell me what it was, but they told me I had to take him to the emergency room," she says.

Loredo drove Eduardo to Children's Mercy Hospital, but the clinic had already called. Both mother and son were surprised by the urgency. The nurses treated Eduardo gingerly. Iris remembers the boy's confused expression: "Like it was a storm in a water glass."

The nurses hooked him up to an electrocardiogram machine, Loredo says. The jagged lines showed Eduardo's heart beating far too rapidly.

Doctors told the family that the 14-year-old suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy, a dangerous condition that enlarges the heart, making it difficult to pump blood effectively. "I was in disbelief," Loredo says. "I never imagined it could be something so ... delicate."

Eduardo didn't leave Children's Mercy that day — he stayed for three months. After work, Loredo would stop at home to change clothes and would sleep in the hospital each night. The weeks her son was in intensive care, she slept in a chair. Medication stabilized his heart. Doctors inserted a catheter in his arm, for the continuous IV drip that encouraged the weakened organ to continue beating.

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