Defying all odds: Day in the life of LeAndra Duran


Jake Reed

Senior LeAndra Duran and her sister Hope Duran singing along to “Dreaming of You” by Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, a song released in 1995.

Just like many teenagers, 19-year-old LeAndra Duran loves Netflix, friends, food, shopping, and good music. However, on top of her schoolwork and teenage life, she juggles severe health complications. LeAndra has suffered from kidney renal failure and Down syndrome throughout her life, and she lives with only one transplanted kidney. “The transplant could fail [at any time], which could cause her to have another transplant. She goes in for blood work every month to check her kidney levels,” said senior Hope Duran, LeAndra’s younger sister.

As a child, LeAndra’s doctors predicted she wouldn’t live past the age of 10. “She’s obviously made it past that, [but] the kidney she has now won’t last forever. When it comes time for her to have another [transplant], we will have to wait until an organ donor passes, which can take a while,” said Duran. She said if the kidney donation doesn’t come in time, her sister will be put on dialysis until they can get a donor.

Once a month the family has to go to the hospital for a checkup, and every six months they travel to Denver’s children’s hospital for an in-depth checkup. “It’s usually a one day thing. We spend about four hours in different parts of the hospital while she gets all her levels checked,” said Hope.

LeAndra takes medications every day for her heart, thyroid, kidney, and blood pressure. At the start of a typical school day, Hope drives LeAndra to school where she enjoys some school breakfast before beginning her special education classes. LeAndra’s favorite part of the school day is getting to participate in P.E. class and spending time with her teachers and friends. “Mrs. [Tessa] Matuzak is my favorite teacher. She plays games with me and helps me cook,” said LeAndra. “I love my friends. They help me with counting, and they like to hang out with me.”

After school, LeAndra’s favorite thing to do is hang out with Hope. “Anything I do, she always comes. If I want to go fill the car up with gas she’ll be like ‘can I come too?’ and I’ll be like ‘sure!’ It’s always more fun with her around, she’s so funny,” said Hope. “Our favorite thing to do together is go shopping. I usually hate shopping, but she makes it so much fun.”

Along with her love of “Pretty Little Liars” LeAndra is obsessed with music. Her dream is to be a singer. Her favorite artist is old Spanish singer, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. “Her favorite song is ‘Dreaming of You’, she knows every word,” said Hope.

In terms of pastimes, LeAndra’s favorite hobby is cooking. Whenever she cooks something at school, she always saves some for her sister. “Sometimes after school, she’ll be like, ‘Hope, I made muffins today! Do you want one?’ and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, you have one?’ And then she just takes it out of her backpack and gives it to me,” said Hope.

LeAndra says her favorite part of every day is getting to be with her sister. When they’re not out and about together, Hope is always helping her with something. “She helps me with my homework; like reading and math,” said LeAndra. Her sister also helps her communicate. “She’s different than other teenagers in that she’s kind of hard to understand. Most of the time I have to translate for her,” Hope said.

It is clear to see the two sisters have an inseparable bond. LeAndra is a year older than Hope, and the two have been close their entire lives. “She’s very protective of me. I can be just talking with a friend and if she’s with me, she’ll just straight up ask them, ‘Who are you?’,” said Hope.

Both sisters look up to each other. Hope says she is inspired by her sister’s unique personality and strength. “She’s such an outgoing person and she’s just herself all the time,” Hope said. LeAndra faces many challenges doing basic things that other teenagers take for granted.

In addition to her challenges with communication, she is unable to participate in many everyday activities because of how easily she gets tired. However, for all the things she can’t do, there are even more miraculous things she can. For example, LeAndra completely taught herself how to swim. “She always used to sit on the wall. We tried to teach her to swim, but she never wanted to let go. Then one day we saw her let go and just start swimming, and she was just like ‘I can swim!’ ” said Hope. To this day, swimming is one of LeAndra’s favorite things to do, and how it happened remains a mystery to her family.

Regardless of all the challenges and unknowns in LeAndra’s life, she maintains her sense of humor and joy in living. This ability to remain happy through the hardships is the thing that inspires Hope most about her sister. “She could just be waking up from surgery and be happy,” she said. “She reminds me every day to be happy for what I have.” LeAndra defies the boundaries placed upon her each day. Her daily life is a testament of strength in the face of difficulty; she truly shows the world how far positivity can go.