Indiana Preemie Held 'Medical Hostage' in Cancun Hospital
The worst thing to happen to most U.S. tourists visiting Mexico is a bit of dysentery from drinking the water.
In Michaela Smith's case, her dream trip to Mexico resulted in the premature birth of her son — 12 weeks early — and a nightmare of bureaucratic red tape that threatened to hold her baby hostage in a foreign country.
Fortunately, the whole family is back in their home state of Indiana. But their Mexico vacation will be one they will never forget.
Michaela Smith and Larry Ralph Jr. were thrilled to embark on their dream vacation to Mexico — until Smith, 28 weeks pregnant, went into premature labor in the unfamiliar country.
Smith had been given the go-ahead by her doctor to travel at 28 weeks, but she gave birth to a tiny son, Beckham, on Tuesday — 12 very scary weeks early — at an unnamed Mexican hospital.
Beckham weighed only 2 pounds, 8 ounces
After his birth, the bureaucratic nightmare began, with the hospital refusing to release the baby to an air ambulance until the hospital bill was paid in full.
The problem? The bill kept changing sums. And going up, up, up.
“Our daughter is stuck in Cancun, with our first grandchild and we can’t get him here,” Smith's mom, Elaine Smith, first told Fox 59.
“Literally they’re being held hostage down there,” said Larry Ralph Sr., Beckham's paternal grandfather. “We just want to get him somewhere and get him stable. We need to get him in America.”
Smith and Ralph Sr. forked over $9,000 to the hospital for the first day of care alone, along with $4,000 more for dubious "fees."
To make matters worse, the baby's father, Larry Ralph Jr., was reportedly not allowed to see the baby until he paid an additional $4,000.
Extortion and hostage-taking: not generally something you hear about with the happy arrival of a newborn.
The total sum demanded by the Mexican hospital was last tallied at $30,000 — and that total does not include a dime of the money Beckham's four grandparents spent on the air ambulance.
The Indiana family had been in constant touch with Congressman Trey Hollingsworth and his staff to find a U.S. hospital in Florida that would take Beckham ASAP to stabilize him — despite the fact that the family only had Indiana-based health insurance.
Hollingworth's office released a statement. “Indiana’s 9th Congressional District office has been working with the family throughout the day seeking a solution to get this newborn home, to the United States, for necessary medical care. Representative Hollingsworth continues to assist and looks forward to greeting this new Hoosier as soon as he is home and healthy.”
Ralph Sr. was devastated to find that — despite the medivac from Cancun to St. Petersburg Hospital being paid off ($18,000) — no Florida hospital would accept baby Beckham as a patient because of his mother's Hoosier Healthwise insurance.
Elaine Smith, the maternal grandmother of Beckham, said, “I would’ve never thought that we would’ve had a problem getting him in a hospital here. We would’ve thought Florida would’ve been our best chance.”
The cost of Beckham's care in Mexico was exorbitant and has devastated the family financially. The family started a GoFundMe page to get baby Beckham to safety and pay off some of the horrendous medical bills.
Fortunately, Beckham was taken by medical jet to Riley Hospital at IU Health in his home state.
But that was a private medical jet — another $30,000 the family had to pay up front.
We know babies are expensive, but this saga was utterly unbelievable. We're just glad baby Beckham is home in friendly Hoosier territory.