LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- A Lakewood man desperately waiting for a kidney transplant found out the hospital where he planned to get it is now suspending its organ transplants for up to a year. Now, he's concerned it could delay his life-saving procedure.
About 232 patients are on organ transplant waiting lists at Porter Adventist Hospital, which announced Tuesday it is voluntarily and temporarily pausing its transplant procedures.
For three years, Anthony Barela has been on the waiting list for a kidney, and at only 30-years-old, he is on borrowed time.
"I'm at 9 percent kidney function, which for some people they're already on dialysis at that point, so it could be any moment that my kidneys fail," said Barela.
When he was just 15-years-old, the symptoms from a rare genetic mutation began, and his mother, Faye, has fought with him all that time.
So, when she read on the Denver7 app that the program had been shut down, she couldn't believe it.
"Oh my God! It's like he was just dropped. Just... you don't matter anymore," said Barela. "He's been steadily doing this for three years, and then all of the sudden, nothing? It's wrong."
Wendy Forbes, a spokeswoman for Centura Health (owner of Porter Adventist Hospital) said that because of staffing changes, the hospital has not been able to fill vacant positions in the transplant program. With the loss of experience, she said, the hospital is looking to rebuild the team from the ground up.
Forbes said the suspension has nothing to do with the issues the health department reported earlier this year with how the hospital cleaned its equipment after orthopedic and spinal surgeries.
Barela just wishes someone had told him in advance.
"I told them the truth, which is if you're not the one dying, you don't understand what this is like," said Barela, who said it's especially hard for him because a school friend is being tested right now to see if she's a match. "What they told me is my friend is probably going to have to do her tests all over again."
If she is not a match, he will not lose his spot on the waiting list, but will become inactive until he is admitted into a new transplant program.
"So you go back to square one. At least, that's how it feels. Hopefully, the transition to another hospital won't be that bad, but I don't know until I just do it," he said.
For him, every day counts because transplants done before a patient starts on dialysis last longer, he said. His wife and 2-year-old daughter are depending on him.
"That's really why you keep working on it because I really want to be here long enough for her to grow up," he said. "I just love her every day, and hopefully, it will work out."