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Castro helps people be a blessing to each other

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The fistulae where Frank Castro is hooked up to dialysis three times a week are not easy to see at first glance. Castro hopes to attract enough people to form a support group for chronically ill people in Roswell as well as their loved ones. (Curtis Michaels Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Life is about having a purpose. Just ask Frank Castro. After a life lived in service to God, he experienced a setback that caused him to seek a new way to serve God.

“I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1998,” Castro said. “I felt good so I just went along living regularly until my health kept me from doing regular work. I started losing my vision in 2014, it was getting hard for me to read. I’m a religious man so I read the Bible a lot. I noticed that I couldn’t read it as often as I wanted to. It was handicapping me as a missionary and in my daily efforts. My job required me to see clearly and I had to leave the job because I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Castro said he hadn’t realized how damaging diabetes can be.

“Diabetes is a disease that amplifies new illnesses or old injuries,” he said. “It got to the point that even my medicines were damaging my kidneys. The most important thing in life is knowledge. Knowledge is power and ignorance can kill you, (it) will kill you. Ignorance has killed a lot of people. This is why I’m so passionate about getting the word out there. I was ignorant of what the diabetes was and could do to you. I regret not knowing what it could do to me.”

His job gave him the earliest clues that something was wrong.

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“I enjoyed my work,” Castro said. “I enjoyed the people, but my eyesight wasn’t good enough to keep doing the work. I told my supervisor that I needed to take a leave of absence to get my eyes worked on. I never returned to work because it didn’t get any better.”

When he saw his doctor, Castro got even worse news.

“That’s when I found out about my kidneys,” he said. “My primary care doctor told me I needed to see a kidney specialist. When I started with the kidney specialist my kidneys were at about 40 percent function. Within six months I was down to six percent. Now I’m at zero, and on dialysis.”

He knew this was the beginning of the end.

“I stayed in bed for three months after the kidney diagnosis,” Castro said. “I was scared, lonely and depressed. It’s hard to lift other patients up when you’re so down, but with the help of the Lord we can do this, we can lift people up.”

He tried ignoring the facts.

“I denied myself the realization that I was dying, which I am,” Castro said. “Dialysis was the only treatment that I had to survive. It took them about three months to convince me to get a fistula. I knew that was going to take a surgery. I didn’t want to go through surgery. My doctor kept pushing me to get the surgery and I finally consented. It wasn’t as bad as I had feared.”

Castro had watched loved ones go through dialysis, heard their tales, and that didn’t bring him any peace.

“The other part that was bad was the first time going into dialysis itself,” he said. “I’d heard stories. I’d watched diabetics wasting away slowly, slowly and I didn’t want to die like that.”

Castro got a bit somber remembering the first time he walked into the clinic.

“That first time I walked into dialysis I wasn’t even thinking about treatment. I was looking for a bigger brother, someone who had been through it and could help me realize that I wasn’t alone. I didn’t find one.”

It was that final disappointment that gave Castro his inspiration to a new purpose.

“So now I am the bigger brother,” he said, “and I’m going to start a support group so everybody with chronic illnesses can know that they aren’t alone. I’m happy. What I’m trying to do is create a group, a support group for dialysis patients.”

The dialysis process and related issues is an emotional rollercoaster ride.

“Dialysis is a treatment that I would not wish on anybody,” Castro said. “I’m trying to work myself up to a kidney transplant, and there’s always hope. If I get approved for the list it’ll be another two or three years. I’m 65 now. With dialysis I may have another 10 years.”

His idea for the support group expanded after learning about the challenges of people with other chronic illnesses.

“I was talking to one lady,” Castro said. “I tell almost everyone about my plan to start a support group. She told me, ‘My husband, in the last days of his life, he told me he wished there had been a group where he could have shared his feelings.’ So my vision expanded from that. It’s not just about dialysis, it’s about chronic illness of all kinds.”

Castro’s new purpose isn’t all that different from his original purpose, just scaled back to a more personal level.

“I have always been healthy,” he said. “I helped build our church in Roswell, a church in Albuquerque, one in Farmington and one in Santa Fe. I started a church in Lubbock, one in Brownfield, one in Amarillo and one in Hobbs. Me and my family have traveled many miles serving the Lord. I’m used to serving my purpose in these ways, and after my diagnosis I couldn’t find my purpose anymore. But now I’ve found it. I’ve found it in creating this support group. I’m happy now.

“I have more liberty to talk to people and to share my faith in God. I don’t tell them about my religion, I just share my faith in God. I let them have their beliefs. I let them know that God has helped me. I want them to see how great it is to understand our purpose.”

Castro’s faith and his desire to help others are fueling his passion.

“We’re given what we have to help others,” he said. “I want to build inspiration to speak people’s minds. I want the supporting family to get together with us to share their experiences, and to see why we have changing moods, how come we feel incompetent, how come we feel fragile. We do feel fragile. If I can get this information out, I believe there will be a lot of people with chronic illness that will relate and will open up and we can come together with our supporting loved ones.”

He knows he can’t do it alone.

“I have a couple of places in mind where we could meet,” Castro said, “but I am looking for a meeting place. I need all the help I can get making this support group work, my phone number is 575-208-9639. I bless God for all the people who are trying to help us, including people reading this article.”

Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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