Tyler Perry gets Atlanta couple home in time for holidays

Tyler Perry was a beacon of hope for an Atlanta couple whose cruise vacation quickly turned into an unforgettable scene from a horror film. NBC News reports that Stephen Johnson and his fiancé Tori Austin were in the midst of their vacation when Johnson had to seek emergency medical attention on board the ship. Austin says that her fiancée was rushed to Centro Médico Americano hospital in Progreso, Mexico after medics on the ship diagnosed him with pancreatitis, diabetes, and a kidney infection that required dialysis.

A hospital administrator told NBC News that Johnson was “near death” when he was admitted on Saturday (Nov. 22). The administrator said, “He suffered kidney failure and is currently undergoing dialysis.” Johnson underwent endoscopy, dialysis, and was in intensive care for three days, which resulted in him having a hefty $14,000 hospital bill.

The outlet reports that Centro Médico Americano has a policy that requires patients to pay their medical bill in full at the time of discharge because they do not have a system to bill their patients after they have been released. However, the hospital generally tries to assist patients in trying to figure out how to pay their bill via credit cards or money transfers, if they don’t have travel insurance.

During an interview with Good Morning America, Austin revealed that the hospital staff locked the windows in their room to ensure that they would not try to escape. “We simply can’t leave until this $14,000 bill is paid,” she added. 

The couple was unaware of the policy until they attempted to leave the hospital on Tuesday (Nov. 19), according to NBC News. They also did not have travel insurance, which appears to be common among travelers. According to a survey conducted by TravelInsurance.com, travelers tend to have concerns about mishaps interrupting their trip, but at the same token, they do not always feel inclined to purchase insurance to provide them with a backup plan, if something were to happen.

“The most common reasons why travelers disregard travel insurance are: they believe it’s too expensive; they don’t understand the coverage or the rules of purchasing it; and they believe they just don’t need it,” the site reports.

Additionally, TravelInsurance.com discovered that “more than half (54%) have never purchased travel insurance and two thirds (65%) of those have never even considered it.” Also, the survey revealed that “about half (47%) of respondents didn’t know whether or not their health insurance provided coverage while traveling, especially when traveling abroad.”

Austin and Johnson were left with minimal options, so they decided to create a GoFundMe to acquire the funds needed to allow them to foot their bill and return home. NBC News reports that Perry saw a news report about the couple and their dilemma, and sent a payment to cover their $14,000 hospital bill. Austin also revealed that Perry offered to cover their travel expenses back to Atlanta once Johnson is cleared to be discharged.

“I am so thankful for him,” Austin said of Perry.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico’s website has also informed U.S. citizens to be aware that unforeseen hospitalizations in Mexico “can be a difficult experience.”

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