North Fulton County

Metro Atlanta couple on vacation says hospital in Mexico won't let them leave

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — A Mexican vacation has turned into a nightmare for a metro Atlanta couple. A medical emergency landed them in a hospital and now they aren't allowed to leave.

Stephen Johnson and his fiancée Tori Austin told Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray they were vacationing on a Carnival cruise when he went into diabetic shock.

Johnson was taken to the hospital in Progreso, Mexico and spent three days in the intensive care unit. The couple were given a $14,000 bill and said hospital won't let them leave until it's paid.

"I appreciate them saving my life, but they can't hold me captive. That's not right," Johnson said.


The couple has had trouble getting access to a Western Union or a working ATM in the town. They offered to sign a promissory note or pay a down payment.

But they said the hospital is demanding $14,000 in cash.

"We don't have $14,000 right away. So we offered to pay some, to even do a promissory note. But the administrator lady here said absolutely not."

In an exclusive Channel 2 Action News investigation in 2017, we reported on how similar problems have happened with other American families who had medical emergencies on vacation in Mexico.

In those cases, the hospitals refused to perform treatment until they got cash.

For Johnson and Austin, the couple said the hospital administrators physically blocked them from leaving the hospital Tuesday.

"They were pushing us and pulling us," Austin said.

The couple is working with the U.S. Embassy and just want to get home.

"We both have jobs. We have animals. We have families. It's been hard," she said.

Carnival released the following statement:

"We can confirm that one of  our guests on Carnival Dream had a medical emergency and was required to seek medical treatment in Progreso. We are not in a position to comment on the personal matters related to his health or the financial arrangements regarding his treatment, but our CareTeam is providing support."