As the United States sends aid to the Philippines to assist with recovery efforts from Typhoon Haiyan, one Philippines woman is preparing to travel to the United States to serve as a lifeline for a Long Islander.
After six months and four failed attempts to obtain a visa, Carolina Dela Cruz, 39, said she learned Monday that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security approved her request to enter the country, so she could donate a kidney to Esther Slubski, 75, of Old Bethpage, a long-time family friend with end stage renal disease.
“Thank you so much for helping Mommy Esther,” Dela Cruz told Rep. Steve Israel Monday while Skyping from the Philippines with Slubski, whom she affectionately refers to as family.
After learning about Slubski’s plight in September, Israel urged the family to try a different method of getting Dela Cruz into the country called “humanitarian parole.” This option allows a person who is otherwise inadmissible to enter a country for a temporary period of time due to a compelling emergency, Israel said.
Israel and his staff worked with the Slubski family and Dela Cruz to file the humanitarian parole application in early October and pressed the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to expedite the request. On Friday night, Israel said he learned it had been approved.
“Today is a very happy day for Esther and her family preceded by many days of hard work, and lots of ups and some downs,” said Israel during a press conference inside Slubski’s living room. “A bureaucratic hurdle has been eliminated and a true lifeline has been established.”
Although Israel was initially critical of the embassy’s handling of Dela Cruz’s visa requests, he said it was important to note that embassy officials quickly reached out to Dela Cruz Monday even though they were dealing with the crisis in southern Philippines.
Dela Cruz, who said she was not impacted by the typhoon, will now have to report to the U.S. Embassy in Manila on Wednesday to complete some additional paperwork, and then, she can start making arrangements to travel to New York. She’ll be permitted to stay in the country for six months before her visa expires, Israel said.
“The hard work really starts now,” said Elias Slubski, Esther’s son. “We can focus on what matters now. The visa was just a technicality that turned into a very large burden.”
Elias Slubski, 38, also of Bethpage, said he contacted the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, where the transplant surgery would take place, Monday morning to update them on Dela Cruz’s situation, but the procedure has not been scheduled yet. Although he said Dela Cruz has already sent her blood work to the Mayo Clinic, which determined her kidney was a match for Slubski, she’ll still have to undergo additional tests once she arrives there.
After more than a year of waiting and worrying over whether she’d receive a kidney before hers failed completely, Esther Slubski said the good news hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
“Now, I can look forward, that’s the biggest difference,” she said. “Before, I didn’t know if I would be able to or not.”