Harlandale ISD trustee dies caught in statewide dialysis crisis

Family of Zeke Mendoza says only four hours of dialysis last week weren’t enough to keep him alive

SAN ANTONIO – The cause of death is still pending, but the family of 61-year-old Zeke Mendoza, a Harlandale ISD trustee, said they believe a total of four hours of dialysis during two visits weren’t enough to save his life.

Nancy Camarillo, his niece and the family spokesperson, said Mendoza would usually go to dialysis four times a week for up to five hours each session.

“Sixteen to 24 hours that you would get throughout the week reduced to only four hours,” Camarillo said.

Camarillo said family members discovered Mendoza unresponsive in his home Monday. She said she believes lack of treatment caused renal failure in her uncle.

Last week’s deadly winter storms led to a statewide dialysis crisis.

Power outages and water shortages, in addition to so many dialysis patients coming in, forced many treatment centers to limit each dialysis session to only two hours.

In a statement, a spokesman for U.S. Renal Care said the following:

“U.S. Renal Care (USRC) enacted its comprehensive disaster management and response plan well in advance of the devastating week of unprecedented winter storms in Texas. In anticipation of power outages and severe weather, we coordinated for approximately one-third of our patients to receive their dialysis treatment over the weekend in advance of the storm.

“Our disaster management taskforce worked to minimize any disruptions to patient treatment schedules. We secured access to emergency generators for our facilities in San Antonio, allowing for 12 of our 17 San Antonio-based clinics to remain operational throughout the storm. The five facilities that were not operational rescheduled their patients at neighboring facilities. Dialysis treatment services were available to all USRC San Antonio-based patients throughout the storm. Further, the USRC Pleasanton Road dialysis clinic had access to both power and water and provided dialysis treatment services throughout the storm.

USRC coordinated with multiple stakeholders including state government officials and even local police officers to get transportation for patients who could not otherwise access their clinic. We worked closely with the Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER) network and the Texas Emergency Management Division. In addition to our own patients, USRC collaborated with other leading dialysis providers to triage patients needing dialysis services, providing treatments to at least 44 patients from non-USRC dialysis clinics.”

In response to Mendoza’s death, the statement reads the following:

“USRC mourns the loss of life throughout Texas and expresses our deepest condolences to the patient’s family.”

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.