9 On Your Side Immigration Watch
Hospital sets no deadline for transfer of uninsured immigrant
Jesus Cornelio is now "making great strides"
Reporters: Steve Nuñez and Forrest Carr
PHOENIX (KGUN9-TV) - A Phoenix hospital said Wednesday it has set no deadline for the transfer of an ininsured, brain-injured Mexican immigrant. According to a spokeswoman, now that Jesus Cornelio is showing marked signs of improvement, there is no immediate rush to find alternative care. But the hospital confirmed that because it is not a long-term care facility, the family will have to make other arrangements sooner or later.
The man's wife, Evelyn Cornelio, initially claimed the hospital gave her two options: remove her husband from all life support and place him in a hospice for the few days it would take him to die, or send her husband back to Mexico for care. But since the hospital initially presented those options several days ago, two things have happened. One, Cornelio is showing signs of improvement. And two, she was able to make a cash payment to Banner Good Samaritan, the hospital that has been caring for Cornelio since he collapsed during a soccer game 17 days ago.
An aneurism cut off circulation to the brain for an estimated ten minutes -- well past the time when recovery would be considered likely or even possible. But her husband is showing signs of activity -- a development she says has left his doctors astonished.
"Even to them it's like a shock," said Ms. Cornelio.
She said her 23-year old husband is no longer in a coma and continues to breath on his own. Doctors removed his ventilator last week.
"He's moving his legs a lot, he stretches, yawns and coughs," said Cornelio. "I asked the doctor if he would consider that a coma and he said no."
Evelyn also said doctors told her Jesus can stay at least one more month so they can better diagnose his long-term condition.
Because of federal privacy law, the hospital has been very guarded in its public statements about Cornelio's case. But hospital spokeswoman Rainey Daye Holloway told KGUN9 News on Wednesday morning that although removal to a hospice or to a facility in Mexico were among the options that doctors initially presented to the family, there was never any hard and fast deadline.
"I think in their stress, they have misunderstood that there was a deadline," Hollway said. "Right now, the patient is showing signs of improvement, so we are working with the family to discuss rehab therapy, outpatient care, what happens when he gets home."
Cornelio, according to his wife, has legal status, but is not a U.S. citizen. He has no private insurance, and because of his status, is not qualified for Medicaid. Ms. Cornelio said she's collected $5,500 from community donations to help pay her husband's medical expenses that have now exceeded $120,000.
"And everyone who's saying that my husband, unplug him, I'm just going to tell them no," said Cornelio. "That's they're opinion that's what they can think, I could be broke for all I care but I'm not going to take him out of here just because of money."
And while Evelyn said the hospital is no longer pressuring her to make the heart-wrenching decision on whether or not to remove her husband from his feeding tube, doctors have made it clear that Jesus may never fully recover or walk and talk again.
9 On Your Side Reporter Steve Nuñez asked her, "What do you say to those who say he's a Mexican immigrant, he's not insured and he should be deported back to Mexico and let Mexico pay his hospital bills?"
"I do have his papers in process. He did receive his employment and authorization card and social security card. So he's not illegal," answered Cornelio. "I don't know what to tell those people, just to have a heart."
Hollway told 9 On Your Side that Cornelio's insurance and immigration status are not the only reasons that Good Samaritan is not a viable option for his long term care. "We are not a long term care facility," she said. But she stressed that the hospital is working closely with the family to find the right treatment option for Cornelio.
Holloway said that because of his continued improvement, Cornelio is now listed in serious, not critical, condition. "He is making great strides."