Tyler Perry helps American couple held “captive” in Mexican hospital


ATLANTA, Ga., (CBS) — Help is on the way for a couple from Georgia who said they’re being held hostage in a Mexican hospital. Stephen Johnson went into diabetic shock while on a Carnival cruise. Doctors in the port city of Progreso treated him, but won’t let him leave.

“I still feel like a captive now because I can’t leave,” Johnson told CBS News from the hospital.

He and his fiancée, Tori Austin, were on the cruise when he collapsed suddenly and was in danger of dying. At the hospital in Mexico, a team of doctors, dialysis and a ventilator helped him recover. But when he tried to leave three days ago, he said the hospital became a prison.

“It was three or four of them and they just kept pushing me and I had to hold on to the rail. I was going to start swinging and throwing and punching because I was scared,” Johnson said.

The hospital wanted its money first, amounting to $14,000, paid in full. Johnson had no health insurance and the hospital refused his offer to pay over time. Hospital staff physically blocked them from leaving several times, once with a trash can lid.

Donors stepped in, including movie mogul Tyler Perry. He heard about Johnson’s story and agreed to settle the bill.

“I owe him my life and I hope to get to meet him when I get back to Atlanta because he deserved the biggest hug,” Johnson said.

But he will have to wait because the hospital said he’s not well enough to travel.

The State Department’s aware of Johnson’s case. It has sent an official to help out the couple. Even if Johnson had insurance, he might be in the same predicament. Many health plans providers don’t cover care outside the U.S. One option often recommended is travel medical insurance.

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