Less than one month after the Garcia family moved into their Habitat for Humanity home, they got the call that a much-needed pancreas and kidney were ready for transplant.
Two years ago, Jessica and Agustin Garcia started the process with Habitat for Humanity Ellis County for a chance to raise their two children in a safe environment. It wasn’t until the slab was poured for their new home in Ennis when Agustin seriously questioned his health.
The blended family of four lived in an apartment complex in Ennis but Jessica mentioned it was not the ideal setting to raise seven- and 10-year-old boys.
“The privacy situation and the safety situation wasn’t the best so those were our major concerns,” Jessica explained. “There were several incidents where neighbors [units] were being broken into.”
Security and financial stability qualified the Garcia family for Habitat for Humanity. She filled out an application and waited on the previous project to wrap up. The board of directors then interviewed a variety of families. Jessica recalled about eight families in attendance and that her and Agustin were first to arrive and fully prepared.
A quick week later, Jessica received the call and was informed that her family was selected. Jessica pointed out that her husband's medical condition was not a factor until after construction started.
It was June 2017.
“We were very happy with a lot of emotions of joy and excitement,” Jessica expressed. “We were very happy to have been selected and blessed that we were able to move forward with this and provide our children a home.”
An eager family ready to relocate knew many months of labor were ahead. Habitat for Humanity operates as a sweat-equity program, which required the family to contribute to the construction of their home and acquire volunteer hours. A home for an individual requires 250 sweat equity hours while 350 hours are required per couple for family homes.
The first volunteer opportunity was at the Festival of Trees in Waxahachie, which raised funds to purchase construction materials.
That same month, Agustin’s health quickly deteriorated and he began dialysis treatment three times a week. Dialysis keeps the body in balance by removing waste, salt and extra water to prevent them from building up in the body, keeping a safe level of certain chemicals in the blood, such as potassium, sodium and bicarbonate and helps to control blood pressure, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
Jessica said everything seemed to happen so fast.
Agustin had suffered from type-two diabetes since he was 15 years old. Over time, his cholesterol and blood pressure rose and was then diagnosed with renovascular disease, which resulted in kidney failure.
“I started getting light-headed, weak and I couldn’t stand up anymore. So I ended up going to the hospital,” Agustin said as he filled his pill box.
“He was still working and able to come and volunteer so it didn’t really interfere with that,” Jessica noted.
Every Saturday — when it did not rain — strangers, family and friends would gather at the property and be put to work. The land located centrally in town was donated by the City of Ennis, Ellis County and Ennis ISD. Anywhere from seven to 30 volunteers would gather to contribute to the home — some traveled as far as Dallas to help.
“I found that it was very easy to get along with individuals,” Jessica said. “They were usually excited to work and help out. It was an awesome feeling when people you don’t even know come help you.”
The structure of the home came together and Jessica had just about mastered a power saw. By now it was April and Jessica was determined to not only fix up her future home, but also fix her husband’s health.
“I’m a fixer. That’s what I do,” Jessica assured.
Agustin was on an organ transplant list at Houston Methodist and Dallas Methodist. Since the two hospitals were considered in different regions, the chances were higher. Agustin is young and did not suffer from other medical conditions, so he was eligible for a pancreas too. And, because he was now to receive two organs, he became a priority on the list.
By Sept. 29, the family had turned in their keys to the apartment and moved into the four-bedroom, two-bath house with freshly painted walls and brand-new appliances. The kids now had their own bedrooms and Jessica is reminded of her gratefulness every time she parks in the driveway.
On Oct. 18, Jessica’s phone rang and a caseworker for the transplant informed her a match might be in Temple and to keep her phone near.
The next day, Agustin underwent a six-hour organ transplant surgery where he accepted a pancreas and kidney.
Jessica hesitated to say the surgery went well. Even though the kidney and pancreas are operating correctly, fluid has invaded the pocket where the kidney is, which has caused excruciating pain. Throughout the interview, Agustin grunted in pain and eventually had to relocate from the kitchen table to the living room sofa for comfort.
Jessica admitted the entire process is the most physical, spiritual and emotional effort she had put into anything in her life. Through this experience, she learned exactly of all the good her community and life is capable of.
“If you really want something and you’ve really put the effort in to get what you want, you can accomplish it,” Jessica said. “I wanted to do the program, to be part of the program, to qualify to have a home for our family and we did it.”
Habitat for Humanity Ellis County was established in 2001 and has completed 13 homes. Suzie Timmerman, a Habitat for Humanity board member, said the location for the 14th home has not been determined at this time.
The organization is eager for more volunteers and hosts monthly meetings that are open to the public. The group normally meets the last Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at Ferris Heights Methodist church. For November and December, the nonprofit will meet on Dec. 4 at the Roofing Restoration Services of America, located at 310 W. Jefferson St. in Waxahachie.
Companies that donated time and services for the Ennis home included Plan Factory South, AGTM Engineering, James Hardie Building Products, CA Wilson, Ellis County Title, Dallas Habitat for Humanity, Keller Williams Realty, Lippert Components, Owens Corning, Ennis Rotary Club, Burton Roofing, Koral Industries, Inc., Garcia Plumbing, JPH Mechanical, Republic Landfill, Rodgers-O’Brien Construction, Ables Buildings and Sheet Metal, Inc., The Greenery, and White Lightning Courier Services.
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450