May 31, 2009
Posted: 04:08 PM ET
**Update: Today, Larry King will visit Juan Gonzalez in the hospital. The teen from Guatemala developed heart problems in the US and was diagnosed to die (CNN's full coverage below.)
His dying wish was to see his parents. Through Delta Airlines and the donations from strangers, Gonzalez' parents were able to come to the United States to see him.
After the story aired on CNN, donations came in for a heart transplant for Juan. The Larry King Cardiac Foundation helped by connecting the boy with a hospital who can provide care for his much needed heart transplant surgery. Larry's in Atlanta today to promote his new book "My Remarkable Journey". On the way to his Atlanta event, Larry stopped by the hospital to see Juan Gonzalez. CNN is covering this emotional meeting and we'll bring you more coverage as it develops.
From Brooke Baldwin and Shawn Nottingham
(CNN) Eighteen-year-old Juan Gonzalez was dying alone in a hospital, thousand of miles from his Guatemalan home. He was separated from the family he had traveled to the United States to help support. Diagnosed with a chronically weak heart, without much money and lacking resources, Gonzalez seemed bound to die without ever seeing his parents again. That changed after CNN aired a story about his plight.
Thanks to the help of a compassionate hospital staff, a U.S. congressman and a concerned community, Gonzalez has been reunited with his parents for what may be the last time. Like many undocumented workers, Gonzalez came to the United States last fall to provide some financial help for his family, who had fallen on hard times back in Guatemala. He took a job as a dishwasher in Rome, Georgia, making about $250 a week. Then, in November, his heart gave out.
Gonzalez has been in and out of the hospital for seven months. Doctors diagnosed Gonzalez with dilated cardiomyopathy, which means his heart muscle is very weak. Dr. Frank Stegall, Gonzalez's cardiologist, said the Guatemalan teen's heart pumps only 20 percent of the blood a healthy heart should.But as Gonzalez's heart failed him, he opened up the hearts of others. Stegall and the staff at Rome's Redmond Regional Medical Center were inspired by Gonzalez's attitude and courage and set out to reunite the dying teen with his parents. They contacted U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Georgia.Gingrey got the State Department involved in expediting visas for Pascual and Maria Gonzalez, Juan's parents.
Delta Air Lines donated tickets to Atlanta, and the Gonzalezes boarded a plane for the first time, bound for Georgia to see their dying son.Gonzalez has vowed to fight to the end, but doctors say his prognosis isn't good. With no money, Stegall says, it will be tough for the teen to get a heart transplant.
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