Going into pre-term labor while in a foreign country is frightening enough. But Michaela Smith had no idea how hard it would be to get home again.
As Fox 59 News reports, Michaela and her husband, Larry Ralph Jr., were expecting their first child. With the baby due in October, July seemed like the perfect time for a brief vacation in Mexico.Screenshot/Fox 59 News
Michaela’s doctor had assured her that it was safe for her to travel up to 30 weeks, and she was close to 28 weeks. But the day before she was due to fly home, she found herself in a Cancun hospital, undergoing an induced delivery at 27.5 weeks.
Baby Beckham was born on Tuesday morning, weighing only two pounds, eight ounces. Anxious to get Beckham home to the U.S., the couple ran into an unexpected problem: the hospital refused to let them leave without payment in full.
While Beckham’s worried grandparents tried to help arrange a medical flight to the U.S., his parents continued to receive demands for money from the hospital.
The new parents gave the hospital what they could. They paid $9,000 for one day of care and another $4,000 in fees. But it remained unclear what the total bill was. At one point, they were told they owed $30,000. Two hours earlier, it had been $27,000.
At one point, the father was reportedly barred from spending time with his new son until they made a payment. Larry Ralph Sr., Beckham’s grandfather, told Fox 59:
“Larry went that whole evening without seeing the baby. They demanded pretty much he pay another $4,000 and that got him access to go back and see the baby.”
Back in Indiana, the couple’s parents were working to find a hospital that could admit Beckham. A plan to fly the preemie to Florida — at the cost of $18,000 — fell through when the hospital couldn’t accept the family’s Indiana-based insurance. Elaine Smith, Michaela’s mother, told Fox 59:
“I would’ve never thought that we would’ve had a problem getting him in a hospital here! We would’ve thought Florida would’ve been our best chance.”
The grandparents banded together to pay for the air ambulance, which is separate from the hospital fee. But they had no guarantee the expensive flight would be permitted. Trapped in Cancun, the new parents were told the hospital would not release Beckham to a medical flight unless the bill was paid.
Larry Sr. told Fox 59:
“Literally they’re being held hostage down there. We just want to get him somewhere and get him stable. We need to get him in America.”
The grandparents worked with Congressman Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN) to find a hospital that could take Beckham. The family also has a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the hospital costs and Medivac flight.
As of Thursday morning, the family had secured an air ambulance and medical team to fly Beckham to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. However, they still worry that the hospital will not let Beckham leave unless the entire bill has been paid.
According to an update on the GoFundMe page, the hospital bill continues to rise and was last quoted at $37,000.
Some positive news came in as this story was being prepared. In an update to its story, Fox 59 reports:
Baby Beckham has been released from the Cancun hospital. His family is on their way to the airport to get on a medical jet and head back to Indiana.