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Medical Crisis Is a Catch 22 for Family : Illness: Feliciano Astiz, 71, suffered a stroke while visiting his daughter on Thanksgiving. Kin can’t afford to pay his hospital bills or return him to Argentina for care.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was to have been 71-year-old Feliciano Astiz’s first Thanksgiving, and he had flown with his wife from their home in Tres Arroyos, Argentina, to spend it with their daughter.

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But on Thanksgiving Day, Astiz had a massive stroke. He now lies in a coma at Tustin Hospital Medical Center, stranded until the family is able to raise enough money to transport him home to Argentina. And the family faces a Catch 22.

His medical coverage in Argentina won’t pay for the costly American hospital bills, and the family cannot afford to fly him home in his condition, said Astiz’s daughter, Claudia Quemuel, 31, of Fullerton.

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“We think that things will be easier there,” she said. “If you need a nurse, you can afford one,” she said.

The family had gathered at Quemuel’s sister-in-law’s house in Tustin on Thanksgiving and “was just getting ready to start dinner,” said Quemuel, sitting on a hospital couch Monday near her father’s bedside. “He was outside talking to another man when . . . his left side suddenly became paralyzed.”

The family helped him into the house, sat him on a couch, and dialed 911. Astiz was conscious for about three hours, aware that he wasn’t speaking as he normally did, she said. At the hospital, a CAT scan determined that he had suffered a brain hemorrhage.

The next day, Astiz complained of a headache and fell unconscious, Quemuel said.

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“We didn’t think it was going to be so awful up to that point,” Quemuel said.

After learning that a special air ambulance to Argentina would cost $40,000, Quemuel approached a Brazilian airline about reserving a row of seats to transport her father to Argentina.

But that also is more than the family can afford. Astiz and his wife each receive about $150 per month in pensions and had paid only two of the four installments for their plane tickets to the United States.

The family has kept a bedside vigil since Thanksgiving, hoping for an improvement in Astiz’s condition.

Dr. David Cohen said it is difficult to predict now whether that will happen, because the stroke occurred only a few days ago.

Not only does the family now face medical bills, they also must pay for the phone calls to Astiz’s other two children in Argentina. “We have no idea how much it is going to be,” said Quemuel, who is a teacher’s assistant at Lathrop Intermediate School in Santa Ana. “The bills are piling up.”


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