AUSTIN (KXAN) — For 25-year-old Ricardo Lares, this Fourth of July will hold a special place in his heart. It’s the first one he’s celebrating as a United States citizen. And at one point, he wasn’t sure he’d live to see the day.
Lares first came to America with his parents.
“Three or four years ago I started getting really sick. I couldn’t even walk, getting tired really quick,” said Lares. “I stopped working, and stayed home for two years.”
Lares had no health insurance, but eventually went to Seton for help. At just 23 years old, Lares was diagnosed with heart failure due to a rare and deadly heart condition called Hypereosinophilic Syndrome.
“We met as a group of professionals, evaluated him and decided that he was someone who would cherish the gift of a donated organ,” said Leslie Goldstein, a Medical Social Worker for Seton Heart Specialty Care and Transplant Center in Austin.
Doctors found a match for Ricardo and he received a new heart just three days after turning 24.
“Ricardo recognizes that receiving a heart is an amazing gift, the best birthday gift he could’ve gotten in 2014,” said Goldstein. “His goal: he’s talked about working in healthcare.”
Lares is working towards his high school diploma, attending classes at Goodwill. Next, he hopes to attend ACC and achieve his dreams of being a radiologist, paying it forward.
“I want to help people, because they helped me a lot,” said Lares. “I want to help back the people that helped me in the hospital, at Seton.”
He also hopes to inspire more people to become organ donors, to help save more lives.
Lares’ naturalization ceremony was the largest one ever held in Austin. Over 1,200 people from nearly 100 countries were sworn in as new U.S. Citizens.
Foreign-born citizens enjoy nearly all the same benefits, rights and responsibilities that the Constitution gives to native-born U.S. citizen – including the right to vote. During fiscal year 2015, about 729,000 immigrants were naturalized nationwide.