By Jill Fox
He should be enjoying life after school and living on his own; however, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School alumnus is focusing all his efforts on staying healthy while waiting for a new kidney.
Danyel Ortiz, 25, was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in October 2017. While finding a kidney donor can take years, his family is helping in every way they can.
One of six children, Danyel, and his family moved to Parkland’s Heron Bay community in 2008.
Danyel, who attended Westglades Middle School and was a 2012 graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was involved in baseball and had a lot of friends growing up. His mother, Patricia Hodgson, worked full-time at an investment firm, and her husband, Envoy, was a network engineer.
According to Patricia, Danyel was a healthy child and visited his pediatrician annually.
When their children were grown, they moved to Coral Springs. Danyel, who works for T-Mobile, and has his real estate license, has since moved into his own apartment in the Riverside area.
Danyel’s life dramatically changed back in 2017, when he went for a routine physical. The doctor noticed unusually high creatinine levels indicating possible renal failure. Other than feeling tired, Danyel showed no other symptoms.
His mother, Patricia, said she couldn’t understand why or how this happened.
“I couldn’t believe it. There had to be some mistake,” she said.
The days followed with numerous blood tests, CT scans, MRIs, a biopsy of Danyel’s kidneys, and all confirmed he was in renal failure. His kidneys were only functioning at 13 percent.
Patricia said, no one could explain how her son developed this chronic disease. According to doctors, one possible explanation was Danyel might have had an infection in his body at some point that went undetected and had caused the damage.
One in seven U.S. adults is estimated to have chronic kidney disease according to the CDC, while more than nine in ten adults do not even know they have it.
After seeking second and third opinions, nephrologists confirmed a transplant was necessary. The recommendation was to hold off on dialysis because of the risks involved, including deterioration of his overall health.
In the meantime, specialists advised meeting with a nutritionist to recommend a specific diet for Danyel which includes clean-eating and herbal supplements to increase energy and help kidney function.
After a while, Danyel’s test results showed his kidney function had increased, and he was no longer eligible for a transplant.
“This improvement gave him hope,” said Patricia.
The news seemed to be heading in a positive direction; however, even with his parents’ financial help, Danyel’s bills became too high. He no longer was able to afford his diet, supplements, and nutritionist. Then, the day before Thanksgiving, they received terrible news: test results revealed his kidney function had dropped back down.
“He had hope, but receiving this news devastated him,” said Patricia.
Now, Danyel has moved back in with his parents, and his girlfriend, Steph, created a GoFundMe page to help with the $850 per month diet and nutrition costs. Although his medical procedures are covered by insurance, the food and supplements that improve his health are not.
Once again, Danyel is in the process of going through a series of tests to try to secure a position on the transplant list.
Patricia wants others to know that even though children get annual physicals, there are underlying issues that aren’t being tested. Had they known about Danyel’s sickness earlier, it may have been prevented.
“It’s just a tragic situation, and I’m trying to help guide him and do whatever possible to get his spirits up,” she said.
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- Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She is currently a Senior Account Director at Lon Haber & Co. Fox worked at NBC Miami for eight years after graduating from the University of Miami. She lives in Parkland with her husband, Brian and two children.
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