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Old Bethpage woman’s kidney donor denied entry into United States

Esther Slubski, 75, of Old Bethpage, sitting, her

Esther Slubski, 75, of Old Bethpage, sitting, her family and U.S. Rep. Steve Israel hold a press conference to urge the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to allow Slubski's kidney donor to enter the country from the Philippines. (Oct. 24, 2013) (Credit: Handout)

When Esther Slubski was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure in August 2012, she thought her greatest challenge would be finding someone to donate a kidney to her. But after numerous relatives and friends proved not to be a match for Slubski, 75, of Old Bethpage, she found an acceptable donor in February in the Philippines.

According to Slubski and her son, Elias Slubski, a longtime family friend, Caroline Dela Cruz, 39, had seen her older brother, Nestor, benefit from a living kidney donor, and wanted to pay it forward. She sent her blood work to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for testing and was found to be a near-perfect match for Esther Slubski.

The transplant surgery was scheduled and Dela Cruz went to the U.S. Embassy in Manila in July to obtain visas for her and her husband to travel to the United States, but she was denied. She resubmitted the applications again weeks later, only to be denied again, and then, two more times.

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“It was a nightmare, because after everything we went through, I was thinking this was going to be the easy part,” said Elias Slubski, 38, also of Old Bethpage.

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department refused to comment on why Dela Cruz’s visa applications were denied, stating that “visa records are confidential.”

Frustrated, Elias Slubski reached out to U.S. Rep. Steve Israel’s office in September and he suggested the family pursue an option called humanitarian parole.

Israel said humanitarian parole is very rarely used, but it allows a person who is otherwise inadmissible to enter a country for a temporary period of time due to a compelling emergency. The congressman said he has had some success in the past using this vehicle to bring people into the states for lifesaving surgery or to attend a relative’s funeral.

“This is temporary and it is a compelling emergency,” Israel said. “I will not take ‘No’ for an answer.”

Israel’s office delivered Dela Cruz’s application to the Humanitarian Parole Board for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services earlier this month. On Friday, a spokesman for Israel said they learned that the USCIS agreed to expedite the review of Dela Cruz’s humanitarian parole case.

“The kidney donor is not looking to live in the United States permanently or to take someone’s job,” Israel said. “She just wants to donate her kidney and return home.”

Esther Slubski said Friday that time is of the essence.

"I've already been living on the edge for while," she said.

According to Elias Slubski, doctors told the family last October that without a kidney transplant, his mother might only have a year to live before her kidneys shut down completely.

“We don’t know if her kidneys will fail tomorrow or three months from now,” Elias Slubski said. “It’s just frustrating that they’re playing bureaucratic games when someone’s life is at risk.”

Esther Slubski said she is trying to remain positive but the ordeal has taken a toll on her family.

"I go from being up and down quickly, but at this moment, I am hopeful," she said.

Tags: Old Bethpage , Esther Slubski , kidney , transplant , visa , towns

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