SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – Time is running out for a 35-year-old Oakland welder who is suffering from failing kidneys and fighting to get a surgery that could save his life.

Jesus Navarro needs a transplant. He has insurance, and his wife wants to donate a kidney, but University of California, San Francisco won’t do the transplant. Navarro is an undocumented worker from Mexico who spoke to CBS 5 through a translator.

“I’m worried that I might fall ill, or something might happen to me. I’m worried what might happen to my daughter,” said Navarro, whose daughter is 3-years-old. “I was mad and sad at the same time. I assumed that they were here to help save lives.”

Navarro has been in the U.S. for over 15 years. Although UCSF insists his immigration status is not the reason for the rejection, it is a significant part of the decision. The hospital released a statement which included the following:

UCSF does not reject potential transplant patients based on their immigration status and has performed transplants on undocumented individuals…Undocumented individuals have no access to Medicare and may have limited access to Medi-Cal for critical long-term care.

Stanford ethicist David Magnus said he’s surprised by the medical center’s stance.

“You have to do a full evaluation of the psycho social system, how far do they live from hospital, do they have transportation to the hospital, are they able to make appointments,” said Magnus, PhD/Professor of Biomedical Ethics. “Simply relying on immigration status is not enough to rule someone out for a transplant.”

The case is getting a lot of attention, thanks to the efforts of Donald Kagan, who launched a petition campaign on

“If you have kidney failure, you are going to die. I’m one of the lucky people to have gotten a transplant. It’s my job now to give back to those that aren’t quite as lucky,” said Kagan.

Navarro said he hopes the support leads to a resolution.

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