Johan and Tariq with Their Mother, Leslie Lopez

Johan and Tariq Lopez are bright, bubbly five-year-old twins who have survived nearly insurmountable odds. Both boys were diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, the same disease that claimed the life of a sister who died before they were born. With more than 100,000 people waiting for an organ transplant in the U.S., the two young boys received two life-saving hearts in 2008. The transplants have given them a second chance to live, a gift that will have an immeasurable impact on their lives. But the struggle is far from over.

Following their life-saving surgery, they and their mother Leslie had to live in the New York City shelter system for a number of months, due to lack of affordable housing. These living conditions posed significant health risks to their already vulnerable immune systems. Assistance from family in Trinidad barely covers the cost of the apartment in which they currently live in Queens, over an hour away from the hospital. The family has no car, and lives month to month on finances that barely cover rent and food.

The Lopez family is just one of a myriad of families struggling to make ends meet while facing life-threatening heart transplant and cardiac surgeries.

Photo Credit: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

Photo Credit: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times