Cousins Maria Pacheco, 82, and Elva Atilano, 68, have always been close. In fact, they live just across the street from each other. Now they are even closer, facing a shared battle over kidney disease, supporting each other as they dialyze side by side in El Paso, Texas. Maria and Elva are helping each other live life to the fullest through a positive mindset, a passion for cooking and a love of their large family.
Maria began dialysis nine years ago at Fresenius Kidney Care Vista del Sol. When she would come home from treatment three times a week, sometimes feeling tired and weak, she would visit Elva who would cook her lunch and spend time with her. When Elva learned this year that her kidneys had also failed, just like her cousin, she knew exactly where to go for treatment and knew what she needed to do to stay healthy.
“We live for each other,” Elva said. “Going through dialysis together has changed our lives. We’re closer now because we understand what the other is going through.”
When Elva learned she also had chronic kidney disease, she was worried about the impact dialysis treatments would have on her ability to take care of her family, as her husband also had a health condition. Maria was there to lift Elva up and guide her through the process when she started treatment.
As Maria and Elva plan their new year ahead, they provide extra support for each other to stick to a kidney-friendly diet. Their favorite holiday traditions include making dozens of homemade tamales and buñuelos together for their large family, including Elva’s 19 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
“Elva and Maria are great role models,” said Monica Ortiz, clinic social worker at Fresenius Kidney Care Vista del Sol. “They offer incredible support to one another.”
Everyone, including the staff and other patients, has become part of their extended family, providing positivity, undivided attention and cheerful conversation to the cousins during their treatments.
Now these cousins are sharing their story of perseverance and friendship with the larger community. Multiple news outlets have recently interviewed the cousins, helping raise awareness of chronic kidney disease and dialysis.
Elva recently told ABC-7 news that the nurses and doctors at their center have become like another family to her and her cousin. She said the center’s small size made it even easier to build a strong relationship with the care team.