Debbie Delgato Vega has been fighting for her life since 1992 when she was diagnosed with autoimmune liver disease. While she tried to educate herself about her medical issue she learned that there wasn't a whole lot of Spanish-language materials that could explain liver disease and organ donation so that her family could understand what was happening to her. So while in the midst of dealing with her liver disease and waiting for a lifesaving liver transplant she founded LOLA. Latino Organization for Liver Awareness, is the first national, bilingual/bicultural voluntary organization to serve the Latino American communities who suffer from liver disease.
Debbie and I have lived on the same street for 15 years and while I try to reason the news that Debbie has passed away,I find myself with bouts of crying. Debbie was sick way too long. She was in and out of hospitals, on more medication that anyone should ever be and has constantly been at deaths door. I can't even tell you the amount of times over the years Debbie thought it was time. I think that is why this is hitting me so hard! She has fought long and hard. She always came out swinging, staggering to her corner. She wasn't always the champion but she always stood up at the end. This time, Debbie couldn't swing!
Her husband told a friend that she died peacefully and looked like an angel. She was an angel on earth as I am sure she is now in heaven watching out for everyone who loved her. My heart breaks for her husband. I just saw him getting out of his car and long to hug him and tell him how truly sorry I am. How much she is going to be missed, how many lives she changed by being here but I know he doesn't need to hear any of that. He knows!
She was so brave. I am in awe of Debbie and will miss her bright smile and laugh. I can still hear her saying when she looked at my kids, "they are soooo beautiful Maria." I will always hold our times together in a very special place in my heart.
- Our ride on the jet ski when we sat behind Derek Jeter's house trying to catch a glimpse.
- When we sat on her deck while she held Goddess and talked about how she wanted kids but she now knows why God didn't give her one.
- When she made me coffee after one of her hospital stays because I just had to drop in to see her with a basket of wrapped gifts and she opened each one even though she was exhausted.
- The many times, we held hands and walked on the street because she was trying to get some of her energy back after yet another hospital stay.
- The 2 hours I spend on the phone with her after seeing her on the John Edwards show because she went with a friend and he HAD to read her because someone strong was coming through for her.
This post was written about Debbie in 2005 and is called I'm Dying, Would You Like Some Tea
So what do you say when a friend tells you over a cup of tea that they are dying? Today while visiting a friend who I could visible tell has been having some health issues answered my how are you feeling question with “I am dying.” This is something I knew could happen anytime for her because she had a liver transplant 10 years ago and has been sick ever since.
Debbie has a genetic problem with her liver and the medications that she has been taking for 10 years to accept the transplanted liver have basically been poisoning the liver due to the potency of them. She just found out on Thursday that she is being placed on the donor list again and is once again facing the knock of death at her door. It doesn’t seem fair. She is a beautiful person who feels things so deeply, has such faith in life and God, is funny, sensitive, loving, kind, spiritual and full of life.
I asked her what this meant for her and what she wanted to do and she told me that she of course wants pray for a liver but knows that her chances are so slim. Also, she has a bit of guilt about being on the list again because she feels that she was already given the chance to live 10 years and doesn’t think it is right that she could possibly receive another one when there may be someone still waiting for their first. Like I said she is loving and kind.
Because Debbie was being so blunt and upfront it made it easier to talk to her. We talked while sitting on her deck, drinking tea, looking into each others eyes while she held my daughter. We spoke about her possible demise and the sun shined over our heads, the birds sang and the kids on the block played. In the last 6 years that I know her, whenever I am in her presence I always feel like I am talking to someone deeply connected with something bigger, than us. Something I can’t explain. We talked about her setting up a camera to record herself talking to the people she loves, to the people that she may leave behind. I offered my services. I would love to take her to the Botanical Gardens and take tons of beautiful pictures of her before she starts her stronger meds. I am going to mention it next week. I hope she has the energy.
As we hugged good-bye for the day (I had to get home to change my daughter’s diaper), I told her how beautiful she is, how strong and how is everything that God intended for her to be. As I walked to my house a door away, I allowed myself to cry for a moment thinking about how things are so unfair sometimes. Then I kissed my daughter’s head, went home, woke my son up and headed outdoors to enjoy the cool autumn air knowing that eventually we all die and I want to create loving memories for my babies. I am thankful to have Debbie in my life!
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Here is Debbie talking about Hepatitis (she comes in at 3:51)