Formerly comatose Mexican immigrant released from hospital
Jesus Cornelio became a lightning rod in the health and immigration debates
PHOENIX (KGUN9-TV) - According to his wife Evelyn, Jesus Cornelio was not expected ever to wake up. But now he's walking and talking -- and he's doing it at home.
It may or may not be a medical miracle. But whatever it is, it was not supposed to happen. Earlier this month, "pulling the plug" -- taking Cornelio off of life support -- was, according to his wife, an option that doctors had presented. So was the idea of sending him to Mexico for treatment -- an option sometimes referred to in the medical industry as "medical deportation."
Neither will happen.
"I feel very lucky," Cornelio told 9 On Your Side reporter Steve Nuñez by telephone from his hospital room Friday afternoon. Cornelio said he feels very grateful to those who prayed for him. "Thank you. I never give up."
Cornelio's case became a lightning rod for debate in not one but two issues that have dominated state and national political discussion over the past year and a half: immigration reform and health care reform. Cornelio, according to his wife, has legal status but is not insured, nor is he eligible for state-funded health care. She said doctors at Banner Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix intially told her that after an aneurysm damaged her husband's brain, he would never wake up. A hospital spokeswoman confirmed to KGUN9 News that doctors gave Ms. Cornelio some difficult options to consider, but denied ever setting a hard and fast deadline.
But Ms. Cornelio refused to give up hope for recovery or to accept the hospital's options. "I just think that everybody deserves a second chance," she said Friday. "They deserve more time no matter what their legal status is. Everyone is human."
Cornelio began to recover slowly at first, but then with increasing speed. Ms. Cornelio calls it a miracle, although it's one she fully expected.
Hospital administrators refused to allow Nuñez to bring a camera into Cornelio's room on Friday. But Cornelio told him by phone that he is doing well. "The doctor said I can have a normal life. I can run like I used to, but I don't know."
Cornelio spent one more weekend in the hospital. But a Banner spokesperson confirmed to KGUN9 News that he was released at noon on Monday.
According Ms. Cornelio, her husband is doing so well that he was able to sit for an immigration interview on Thursday. As a result of the interview, she said, he finally received his green card. She told KGUN9 News earlier that Cornelio had first entered the country on a temporary tourist visa ten years ago, and never went back.
Now that Cornelio is home, he'll need follow up care and therapy. A nurse from Banner will assist with some of that.
But Cornelio and his wife face an uncertain financial future. Ms. Cornelio told Nuñez that she now owes $200,000 in medical bills, of which she has been able to pay about $5,000 so far, in large part because of community donations. Whether the balance will ever be paid -- and if so, who'll pay it -- is not clear.
Ms. Cornelio told KGUN9 News she's hopeful that going forward, she can get her husband on her employer's insurance now that he has his green card.