If They Only Had a Heart…
Time is no friend of Vilma Serrano. The middle-aged Toronto woman suffers from end-stage kidney disease and is in dire need of a kidney transplant. The problem is that there are more than 3,000 such people in Canada, and the wait for a kidney from a deceased donor can stretch to 10 years. Vilma has only been on the waiting list since 2009.
The alternative to prayer, patience, and dialysis is to locate a live donor, who is a suitable match and willing to part with one of his or her renal organs. Needless to say, these kinds of people don’t grow on trees, especially if they are not a close relative of the recipient.
You can imagine the joy in the Serrano household when, after a long search, a distant relative in El Salvador offered to donate one of his kidneys. The excitement intensified when preliminary medical tests indicated that he could be a potential match. So far, so good.
You might think this story has a feel-good ending, but it doesn’t. The would-be donor applied for a visitor’s visa at the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala City and was denied, not once but twice. And this, notwithstanding the fact that he had letters of support from the Toronto General Hospital’s renal transplant team and the Serrano’s local Member of Parliament.
The family is, to say the least, extremely disappointed at the lack of compassion shown by immigration authorities. Who can blame them? For its part, the immigration department, through a representative, declared that after careful consideration it was determined that the donor might not leave Canada when his good deed was completed. So in essence, after taking into account the good possibility that Vilma’s life could be saved by admitting the donor and weighing this against the possibility that the donor would not voluntarily depart Canada, the government came down on the side of callous indifference.
While I’m on the subject, there is something else that bothers me about Vilma’s predicament. It’s quite apparent that had her relative, the donor, been from a country like Ireland, or Israel, or any other visa-exempt country, he could have simply flown to Canada and potentially to her rescue. He would not have needed a visitor’s visa. It’s just one more example of two-tiered Canadian citizenship.
At this point, the only way that Vilma’s would-be donor is going to enter Canada is if the Minister of Immigration intervenes. Vilma’s daughter has launched a ‘Save our Vilma” online petition at http://vilmasfriends.wordpress.com to support the cause. If you live in Canada, I encourage you to lend your support.