In this month’s Electrical Worker,
we shared the news of Wilmington, Del., Local 313 wireman Dave Amalfitano, who
found a kidney donor in Chicago Local 9 apprentice Rob Vargas after the
28-year-old read an Electrical Worker story last August.
| Chicago Local 9 apprentice Rob Vargas, left, with Wilmington, Del., Local 313 member Dave Amalfitano, center. An unforeseen medical condition will prevent Rob’s life-saving donation. Amalfitano, here with his three kids, now starts his search from scratch.
On April 19, the two IBEW brothers, who’d been talking nearly every day for months, finally met for the first time in Baltimore. The emotional meeting came as Vargas and his family flew in to complete the final medical evaluations before the hospital scheduled Amalfitano’s life-saving surgery.
Unfortunately, during a preliminary scan, doctors found an anomaly in Vargas’ kidneys that prevented him from making the donation.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Amalfitano, 47, who needs a transplant to treat his life-threatening polycystic kidney disease. “We’d all gotten our hopes up that this was the end of a very long journey with this disease, and for it to be ripped away like this has been really tough to wrap my head around.”
Amalfitano’s three kids, Anna, 15, and twin boys Matthew and Leo, 13, were excited for their dad, who has had many ups and downs during his two-year pursuit of a suitable donor.
“Now I’ll go back on the list,” said Amalfitano, referring to the national kidney donor list, which has more than 90,000 people on it; and where some recipients wait as many as 10 years for a transplant. Each year, nearly 5,000 patients die waiting for a matching donor.
“Rob was ready to make a huge sacrifice to help buy me more time with my kids and to get me off this dialysis machine and back to work,” Amalfitano said. “Even now that we’ve gotten this news, he’s still my brother, and I’m so grateful to him.”
Vargas, too, was devastated by the news that he wouldn’t be able to fulfill his promise to his new friend. It wasn’t until he arrived in Baltimore that he learned his kidneys never fully separated in the womb, leaving him a single horseshoe-shaped kidney that poses no health risks, but can’t be split for donation. Roughly one in 600 individuals born in America have the condition.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I was so ready to do this for Dave, to help him have a better life with his kids, and this is just such a letdown.”
Local 313 plans to put the sign back up on their hall’s roadside marquee in Wilmington, which drew local media attention last summer, but Amalfitano knows the odds are stacked against finding a perfect match.
“I had dozens and dozens of people go through the tests, and none were a match except Rob,” he said. “So now we start again.”
Anyone with the blood types O+ or O- who would like to see if they might be a match can call Amalfitano at (302) 757-3238 to be connected with his donation coordinator at the University of Maryland. Those who would like to help but don’t match Amalfitano’s blood type can donate to help him overcome deep financial hurdles at the gofundme.com page set up by his aunt.
“It took a lot of people for me to find Rob, and it will take a lot more people to find another match,” Amalfitano said. “But I’m not giving up. I can’t.”