Tessie Marroquin stopped counting the surgeries at 50. That number doesn’t include the three operations in the last two months, procedures that spiked her blood pressure and placed her in intensive care.
Diagnosed with lupus nephritis at the age of 11, Marroquin spent the next 33 years with bouts of renal failure, dialysis, a kidney transplant and countless medical challenges.
Lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack its own tissues, has no cure. Marroquin copes by writing poetry and short stories in a journal, which she has kept since 17.
She also prays — a lot.
“I really pray and I talk to God,” said Marroquin, 44, an Opelousas native who lives in Baton Rouge. “Sometimes I cry and let it all out.
“I would never tell somebody that it’s easy. But just knowing I have people who really care about me is great.”
Marroquin is set to receive the biggest gesture of care from her sister, Natalie Young. A zydeco and R&B guitarist known on stage as Natalie Dariné, Young is donating her kidney for a transplant.
But the transplant will cause Young to miss eight to 12 weeks of gigs and guitar students in Atlanta, where she has lived for the past year. She’ll have no income and both sisters will need caretakers.
They’ve started “Sister 2 Sister,” a fundraiser on Facebook and gofundme.com that seeks $15,000 to help with expenses. Nearly $2,000 has been raised so far.
Young went through months of testing to make sure her kidney matched her sister. She was pleased with the results.
“Not only are we a match, but we’re an 80 percent match, like four out of six (DNA markers),” said Young, 29, a 2007 graduate of Northwest High School in Opelousas. “They said most people don’t make the 50 percent mark. So the fact that we’re at 80 is rare.
“Her doctor said she shouldn’t wait past September to get the transplant,” added Young. “I’m starting to feel slightly nervous.”
Marroquin received her first transplanted kidney in 2008 from a deceased donor. Doctors expected the damaged kidney to last two years. But the organ worked for a decade and must be replaced as soon as possible.
Marroquin has been unable to work in her nursing profession for two years. She’s hopeful she can go back to school to become a nurse practitioner after the transplant.
Marroquin said she is overwhelmed by the generosity lifting her to that goal.
“My heart is so full. I have never felt like this, about people I don’t know. I can’t even get the words out because it just touches me so much.
“My sister is brave and wonderful. She wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Want to help?
To help sisters Tessie Marroquin and Natalie Young in their kidney transplant, visit “Sister 2 Sister” on Facebook or gofundme.com for more information.