Retired Roswell middle school teacher Andrea Tafoya shows a photo of her son, Fidel Alarcon, on Wednesday. Alarcon, who is in need of an emergency liver transplant, has seen his weight drop from 310 pounds to a little more than 160 pounds in the past year, Tafoya said. (Randal Seyler Photo)
Fidel Alarcon is dying.
The 27-year-old Roswell man’s liver is shutting down, and doctors do not know if he has weeks, or days, left before his condition claims his life.
“He’s very well-known by the people of the community,” said his mother, Andrea Tafoya, a retired Roswell middle school teacher. “He grew up here and he worked for years at the north Sonic and at the Taco Bell on West Hobbs.”
Alarcon graduated from Roswell High School in 2004, and he has worked his entire adult life here in his hometown — until January 2013, when he was diagnosed with liver failure.
“If a transplant doesn’t come through in time, he is going to perish,” Tafoya said. “The doctors can’t say if he has days or weeks left, this is progressing so fast.
“The doctors don’t really know what is happening, or why it happened so fast,” Tafoya said. “They have him on the emergency list for a liver transplant, but we don’t know if that will happen in time.”
Alarcon began feeling ill in 2013, and after several doctors’ visits, it was discovered that his liver was failing following an MRI. In the past 12 months, Alarcon’s condition has worsened, and one of his kidneys has also failed.
“They can’t do a kidney transplant until after his liver is replaced, and he can’t do kidney dialysis, because it would kill him,” Tafoya said.
The young man has no medical insurance, but is covered by Medicaid, his mother said.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing website, transplantliving.org, the estimated U.S. average in 2011 of billed charges per liver transplant is $577,100.
Alarcon has been living with Tafoya’s daughter Linda Encinias in Socorro County to be closer to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where he is being treated.
Alarcon was back at UNM Hospital on Wednesday, and Tafoya was waiting to hear whether he was being admitted into the hospital again.
“There aren’t any specialists in Roswell for what he has, and he has to go to UNM twice a week to get his stomach tapped,” Tafoya said. “Because his liver isn’t working, his body builds up fluids, including ammonia.
An important job of the liver is to change toxic substances that are either made by the body or taken into the body, such as medicines, and make them harmless, according to the National Institutes of Health website, nlm.nih.gov. However, when the liver is damaged, these chemicals may build up in the bloodstream.
Ammonia, which is produced by the body when proteins are digested, is one of the harmful substances that is normally made harmless by the liver. Many other substances may also build up in the body if the liver is not working well. They can cause damage to the nervous system.
“He has had damage to his stomach, esophagus and intestines,” Tafoya said, “and it can also damage his brain.”
Twice a week, doctors at UNM draw about a gallon of fluids from Alarcon.
He is also staying close to UNM so that when a donor organ becomes available, he can be flown from UNM to either Arizona or Colorado, the two nearest locations where a liver transplant can be performed.
“I’ve been holding it together, but I’ve lost it twice,” says Tafoya. “Being in this position, for over a year now, has been really hard, it’s been really rough.”
Tafoya says prayer helps her cope with the situation — not just her prayers, but those of all her friends and family as well.
“I want to thank everyone who has kept us in their prayers, and I hope everyone will continue to pray for Fidel.”
HOW TO HELP
An account for Fidel Alarcon has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank. If you would like to make a donation, contact the bank with the following information: Andrea Tafoya, Roswell NM 88203, Account Number 2335.
This photo shows Fidel Alarcon, of Roswell, who is in dire need of a liver transplant, before he became ill in January 2013. (Courtesy Photo)