By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Northborough – Throughout his life, Rene Robledo has always been a man who found joy and meaning in his work.
But Robledo, 60, who lives in Northborough, has been beset by multiple health issues over the past few years and now has end stage renal disease. His situation is so critical that he is now on a list awaiting a new life saving kidney.
He began working in construction at age 15 working on jobs throughout high school and then while attending the University of Puerto Rico where he earned bachelor of art degrees in humanities and education. Robledo moved to Fitchburg in 1990 and began work as an institutional carpenter at Clinton Hospital. In 1995 he began working for the Fitchburg public schools as a custodian/maintenance worker which led to him being offered a position as an Occupational Education Instructor at the former B.F. Brown School in Fitchburg. There, he worked with at- risk students in the alternative education program. When funding was cut for the program he went back into construction and carpentry for a number of years. In 2014 when he was no longer able to continue in this field due to health reasons he enrolled at Mount Wachusett Community College, earning his Energy Management Certificate, a field he hopes to one day return.
For his longtime life partner, Cindy Merchant, Robledo’s health is heartbreaking to watch. Yet, at the same time, she is bolstered by his courage in the face of such a daunting illness and at the same time, his willingness to still offer compassion to others.
“He is very, very sick now,” she said. “He is also a very private and proud man. But he knows by sharing his story he can help spread the awareness about the importance of organ donation. So even if he can’t be helped, maybe by sharing his story, someone else can be. He tells me every single day how lucky and how grateful he is”
Like many in his family, Robledo developed diabetes and high blood pressure. Diagnosed with diabetes over 15 years ago, he no longer requires medications to control his condition; diet and weight loss (albeit from his illness) have negated the need. But the years of the disease’s impact on his body have taken its toll. Like many patients who have diabetes he has peripheral neuropathy, which is a disease that damages the peripheral nerves, can cause weakness, numbness and pain, usually in your hands and feet but also other parts of the body. Over the past few years he has endured multiple hospitalizations in Boston and Worcester, including a toe amputation as his body has been ravaged by his illness. For the past three years he has been receiving dialysis three times a week for four hours at a time.
According to statistics compiled in 2016 by the National Kidney Foundation (www.kidney.org), there are nearly 122,000 people in the United States waiting for lifesaving organ transplants. Of these, approximately 100,000 are awaiting kidney transplants. The median wait time for an individual’s first kidney transplant is 3.6 years and can vary depending on health, compatibility and availability of organs. The majority of transplants come from deceased donors. On average, the website cites, over 3,000 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month.; one is added every 14 minutes. Sadly, 13 people die each day while waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant.
Robledo is blood type O+. Recently, it has been discovered that some donors with blood type A may donate to a blood type O recipient. Person with blood type A or AB and someone with blood type B may donate to a person with B or AB. A person with blood type AB may only donate to an individual who has that same blood type.
“As I said, he absolutely hates to be the center of attention,” Merchant said of Robledo. “He would much rather be the one to donate a kidney – which he absolutely would do if he could – than have to be the one to receive it. But if by sharing his story he can help bring attention to the need [for organ transplants] then he is grateful for that.”