SPOKANE, Wash. - A Spokane woman, injured during a trip to Mexico says the hospital she was brought tried to extort tens of thousands of dollars from loved ones and held her hostage when her family tried to move her.
Spokane resident Brandi Gallagher loves to travel and last week added Mexico to the list of impressive destinations she'd visited. The fun girls trip took an ugly turn Sunday night when she fell in a gift shop – landing on a metal sculpture. Impaled on the piece of art, she knew her lung was punctured and that she had to get to a hospital.
“The locals are telling me no, get a cab! Get in a cab go!" said Gallagher.
Brandi now believes the locals were trying to save her life, as she's learned some ambulances are contracted to certain hospitals. Being American, she says, she thought an ambulance would be safer.
“The guy didn't even hold the wound,” she said.
She added that the ambulance worker put a oxygen mask over her face to keep her from talking and that it was a friend who put gauze on her wound.
When they finally arrived at the hospital, she thought the worst was over but it was just the beginning.
On the 45-minute journey they passed 3 hospitals, finally arriving at St. Luke's, a hospital the Mexican federal government has asked to suspend operations and cease admitting patients after repeated reports of predatory practices and billing.
They immediately asked her for payment before performing any kind of treatment.
“I don't know what they're going to do with us. I'm terrified at this point. I'm bleeding out and they want money,” Brandi said.
Doctors inserted a tube into her lung and she was stable, but the hospital told her family a different story.
Her friends were told, “your friend is unconscious. She is going to die. You need to come down with money,” shared Brandi.
First, the hospital demanded thirty-five thousand dollars; telling her family to sell their cars and their houses to get the money.
They decided to head down there and that's when things got worse. The hospital upped their demands to fifty-five thousand dollars, and made Brandi a prisoner of her own room. No water, no visitors, and nurses at the hospital were ordered not to treat her.
“I couldn't even get up to use the bathroom,” said Brandi.
The Consulate intervened and the hospital said she could go. But only if they removed the tube.
Gallagher says, “mind you the tube is what is keeping me alive at the moment!”
Thirty-three thousand dollars later; a new hospital and the tube still intact. Gallagher says the care has been phenomenal.
“I keep learning the Spanish word for happy. I keep doing the happy dance,” said Brandi.
She is expected to return home in two weeks and says the first thing she will do is hug her three children.
The US Embassy recommends doing your research before you travel as some Mexican hospitals require payment upfront.
They also advise travelers to give the hotel they are staying at a plan as some still have contracts with banned hospitals. Those hospitals, and a list of recommended treatment facilities can be found here.
To help Brandi and her family with medical costs, visit her Go Fund Me Page.
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