Luis' Story - Doctors of the World

Luis’ Story



When Luis arrived in El Paso, TX he had to make a choice: receive medical treatment for severe pneumonia but remain in U.S. custody, or be released to travel freely within the U.S. but risk severe health complications, including death, from his pneumonia. What choice did he really have?

Unfortunately for Luis, this was not the first impossible choice he’s had to make. When his beloved wife was diagnosed with uterine cancer, he had to find a job that could pay enough to cover the cost of a life-saving hysterectomy. In his country, Venezuela, such a job did not exist. So, he had to make a choice: remain by his sick wife’s side or leave her (and his country) to find a job opportunity in the U.S.

Luis spent seven days and nights walking through the jungle and became ill

He sold his television, his refrigerator, and even some clothes, to gather the $1500 he estimated the journey north would cost. It would be an additional $300 for a guide through the treacherous jungle between Colombia and Panama, also known as the Darien Gap. Luis spent seven days and nights walking through the jungle. “We drank the river water which gave us all diarrhea and survived on just crackers and tuna fish. There were bodies of dead migrants along the side of the trail and there was even a human skeleton hanging from a tree.” Luis became ill with a congested cough, fevers, and chills. “It became harder and harder to breathe.”

"I can breathe again”

When Luis finally arrived at a refugee shelter in El Paso, he made the choice to remain in U.S. custody. Thankfully, a Doctors of the World nurse practitioner began treatment for his pneumonia with two antibiotics, and two inhalers. Within 48 hours he reported “I can breathe again.” Luis’ struggles aren’t over, but he now has a fresh and healthier start.

Luis is one of thousands of immigrants that face seemingly impossible choices every day to leave their loved ones and their homes behind in search of better opportunities.