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Latino Daily News

Thursday September 29, 2011

Arizona Latina Fights to Afford Health Care for Her Brain Damaged Husband and Keep Him in US

Arizona Latina Fights to Afford Health Care for Her Brain Damaged Husband and Keep Him in US

Photo: Evelyn Saenz-Cornelio fights to afford her husbands hospital care

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On September 19, Jesus Armando Cornelio collapsed while playing soccer at a park with his brother. Today, his wife fights to afford the health care he needs, as Arizona’s laws state that Medicaid is only for those who have been legal permanent residents for five years.

Evelyn Saenz-Cornelio’s husband now has brain damage after his brain went without oxygen for about 13 minutes. And though doctors at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix say they will continue to treat him for the time being, Saenz-Cornelio says she has been told by the hospital that she needs to take him to Mexico for treatment, where he is originally from, or put him in hospice care.

Cornelio, 23, has lived in the U.S. since he was 10-years-old. He obtained an employment authorization card and a Social Security card from the U.S. government and next week, he was scheduled to have a final interview to get a permanent resident card. Immigrants are not eligible for Arizona Medicaid until they have been legal permanent residents for five years, something Jesus Cornelio is not.

Though the hospital has given them a one-week extension, Saenz-Cornelio says she does not know what she will do once that week is up.

A spokeswoman for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Arizona’s Medicaid program, said it is federal law that prohibits his access to the state’s Medicaid, not state law.

Evelyn and Jesus met when they were in 6th grade. They became high school sweethearts when they were 16, and married at 22.

ImageSaenz-Cornelio said she and her husband were trying to have children, but that is now on hold, at least for the moment.

Doctors gave the young wife little hope last week, saying Jesus was unlikely to recover, Saenz-Cornelio said, but over the weekend, he opened his eyes, squeezed family members’ hands and was yawning and coughing – things he hadn’t done since he was admitted. She added that he recognizes when people are in the room now, and even responds to some prompts – though he is still not speaking.

Saenz-Cornelio said her husband played soccer throughout his entire life and initially qualified for a scholarship to Phoenix College. It did not work out due to a 2006 Arizona law that states undocumented immigrants cannot receive in-state tuition or financial aid from state coffers.

“I have to learn to be strong, and right now that’s what I keep in my head: ‘He wants you to be strong, to stay positive,’” she said. “I have to have faith that little by little, he’s going to get better and show the doctors and nurses that he wants to be here.”

The hospital has informed Saenz-Cornelio that her husband’s medical bills are about $120,000 so far.