A U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agent who contracted COVID-19 while responding to the ongoing immigration crisis at the Texas southern border will be transported closer to home this week after a company donated his medical flight in the wake of the government’s alleged refusal to pay for the trip.
Gustavo Medina was deployed from Ohio to Texas on Nov. 14, 2021, and tested positive for the virus only five days later, his wife, Ann Medina, has said. His condition worsened until he was hospitalized in McAllen, Texas, where he was ultimately placed on a ventilator and then, in a medically induced coma.
“Gustavo is a fighter, but being so far away from home is taking a toll on the whole family,” Ann Medina wrote of her husband in a GoFundMe page seeking support.
Ann Medina said the federal government denied her family’s request to have her husband transferred to a hospital closer to home in Cleveland, effectively placing the cost and responsibility in their own hands.
Ann Medina later spoke about her family’s struggle during a Feb. 1 segment on “Fox & Friends,” when she described how she had been searching for a private transport company to bring her husband home. Little did she know, an executive for emergency evacuation services company FocusPoint International was watching at the time and has since arranged for Gustavo Medina to be transported free of charge, the company confirmed.
“It seems to me that the US Border Patrol has never been busier along our southern border than it is today, it’s unfortunate that Gustavo contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty, and even more unfortunate that Gustavo’s insurance claim to have him transported back home was denied,” Greg Pearson, CEO of FocusPoint International, wrote in an email statement to Fox News.
BORDER PATROL AGENT HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID-19 AT SOUTHERN BORDER TRANSPORTED TO NEW FACILITY CLOSER TO HOME
He added: “After hearing Ann’s story, I felt transporting Gustavo back home was the least we could do to show our support, not only for the Medina family, but more broadly for the US Border Patrol and their critical mission along the Southern border.”
Barring any issues related to hospital bed availability, Gustavo Medina will be transported to West Cleveland’s Regency Hospital in his home state of Ohio on Tuesday to continue his recovery.
As of Feb. 2, Gustavo Medina remained on a ventilator but had gradually been improving. The money raised through the family’s GoFundMe page will instead go toward his hospital bills, additional treatments and any necessary house modifications, Ann Medina wrote on Sunday.
“I appreciate all the love and prayers and kind words that have been said,” Ann Medina wrote on the page. “I really can’t put my appreciation into words.”
Ann Medina did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request seeking comment on Monday. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees USBP, referred Fox News Digital to the U.S. Department of Labor.
A spokesperson for the Department of Labor would not speak specifically about the Medinas’ case, but said federal employees “who are injured in the performance of duty are afforded workers’ compensation protections by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA).”
“As a matter of practice, COVID-19 claims are routinely accepted, and claimants, if eligible, will receive wage loss compensation in a timely manner,” the spokesperson said. “If a recipient requests transportation, the agency will arrange the logistics and provide payment as soon as the transportation request is authorized by a physician.”
Jackie Papadopoulos, 36, is no stranger to the desperate struggle to bring an ailing U.S. Border Patrol agent home from the southern border. Months earlier, her husband, Kostas Papadopoulos, also contracted COVID-19 while deployed in Texas and just days before he was scheduled to return home to Maine.
Instead, he spent months at a Texas hospital before his wife and loved ones were able to raise the money needed to pay for a medical transport, which can often cost tens of thousands of dollars.
BORDER PATROL AGENT HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID-19 AFTER RESPONDING TO BORDER CRISIS IN MARCH
“It’s pretty mind-blowing. And he was basically abandoned … it was pretty hurtful because he gives so much – all of the agents do, they give so much of their lives, they’re devoted to their jobs,” Papadopoulos told Fox News on Monday. “The government didn’t have their back.”
Kostas Papadopoulos, also 36, was deployed to the southwest border in March and contracted the virus that same month. The father of three was later moved to the intensive care unit, where he was treated for over a month before the family had raised enough money to afford to have him transferred closer to home in early May.
The family was initially hesitant to create a fundraising page but ultimately felt they were left with no other options, Jackie Papadopoulos said.
“If Kostas hadn’t gotten out of Texas, he wasn’t going to come home,” Papadopoulos said.
Through the GoFundMe page, the family was able to raise more than $34,000 from 316 donors. After moving to a Boston hospital to be evaluated for a possible lung transplant, Papadopoulos was relocated to a facility in Portland, Maine, until June 22, and is now continuing his recovery at home.
Papadopoulos stressed that she and her family received “phenomenal” support from the local border patrol station in Maine and that the lack of concern comes from “higher-ups in the agency.”
She said she has been in contact with Ann Medina and noted: “[W]e will stand with them.”
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“The government just isn’t taking care of their own. And abandoning their own, and not putting them first or their families,” she continued. “They left their own literally to die in a hospital.”
She added: “We were waiting for the government to step up. They never did.”