AL Poggio- Guillain Barre Syndrome

The Short Story:
Al has Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS), and he is stuck in Argentina. He is unable to breathe, eat, talk, move, and see without support, and he is currently now in pain as his nervous system is starting to “wake up.” Many friends and family have asked what they can do to help the Poggio family and have encouraged the creation of this GoFundMe page. Constant runaround and lack of support from insurance has inspired us to reach out for help from family and friends who know and love Al. We wish we could say the Insurance companies involved have Al’s best interest in mind, but that has not been the case these last 4 months.
Insurance (AXA Assist specifically) is not only denying our request to medically transport Al to the US; they are suggesting he be transferred to a facility in Buenos Aires at our expense (so we pay both for transfer and his care here on out). Al NEEDS critical care and inpatient acute rehab, likely for months. The best service for this type of care for him is in the U.S. We need to bring Al home immediately and eliminate AXA insurance from the situation, who runs the overseas insurance for FEP (Federal Employees Program). It costs $125,000 to medically air evac Al home. If Al has ever made you smile or has impacted your life in a positive way, please consider helping him get back to the US, where he will receive the care he needs and will get the best chance at a full recovery. BRING AL HOME!!!

The longer Story
Al was a recently retired and healthy 58 year old when he left on a dream vacation to South America with his wife and friends in early 2017.
It all fell apart on Feb 10th, 2017, while on vacation in Argentina. On that day, Al experienced a sudden onset of neurological symptoms. He immediately sought medical treatment and was admitted to Hospital Privado de Comunidad (HPC), where he has been cared for since. He was diagnosed with, and has been suffering from, Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) ever since. GBS attacks the Peripheral Nervous System, taking away the ability to move and feel. Al has SEVERE nerve damage. He is cognitively conscious, but is unable to see, eat, move, breathe, or talk on his own. Basically ALL independence has been taken away from him. Obviously, this would be devastating to experience, especially for someone full of energy, like Al. While HPC has provided great care for Al in his darkest hours, there are huge components of what US healthcare can offer- mostly therapies and technology, not to mention consideration for Al’s mental health status. Al was lucky to be at the Hospital HPC and for doctors there to diagnosis and treat his GBS as early as they did. Good news is- Al’s nerves are starting to regenerate, and he is regaining some use of his muscles; we are seeing muscle contractions and he can make small body movements. His sensory system is also starting to wake back up (think pins and needles), which is very uncomfortable for Al, but a good sign that he is recovering. IT IS AT THIS time, that we must get him back to the US, so he can get the therapy he needs. Medical care and therapy together will help him get his life back. His recovery will take time (maybe years), but if you know Al, you know he is up for the fight! Al needs the emotional comfort of home; he needs you- his family and friends. He needs to be medically evacuated to the USA, so he can receive the medical treatment and rehabilitation he requires.  His wife, Debbie, visits Al in the hospital during visiting hours every day and stays as long as she is allowed to. Debbie doesn't speak Spanish and navigates living, shopping, transportation, communicating with hospital staff, and dealing with the horrible world of American Insurance in a foreign country on a daily basis.
Even though Al has full health insurance coverage, the company (AXA Assist) will not pay for services up front, Al and Debbie have had to pay the hospital over $35,000USD out of pocket so far.  Thankfully, HPC continued to fully treat Al even though they are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical treatment they have already provided.  Additionally, Al requires special treatments that cost thousands of dollars (ex: for bedsores and feeding tubes) that must be paid for up front.
Working with “AXA Assistance”, the Health Insurance Company that is contracted through the Federal Employee Program (FEP, a Division of Blue Shield), to provide international medical coverage for Al, has been an unexpected nightmare. Al needs the experts trained and ready to help him recover in his time of need. However, they continue to deliberately act in bad faith to make every interaction as painful and confusing as possible to limit their financial burden. Despite recommendations from doctors currently treating Al in Argentina, Al’s primary doctor in the U.S. (Dr. Ford), and specialists at UCSD,  AXA continues to recommend transfer to long term care facilities in Argentina in which they are no longer financially responsible.
With proper care in the United States, most GBS patients eventually make a full recovery; however Al has already been suffering for 4 months, is still on a ventilator, and clearly has a very challenging GBS case. The family has recently hired a patient advocate to help get the services Al has paid for, deserves, and desperately needs in addition to pursuing the hiring of a lawyer. Al is a retired Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Employee and retired from the United State Air Force (Air National Guard). Although the family has reached out to the Federal Employee Program (FEP), several military agencies, the USA Embassy, Red Cross, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) and others, no one has been able or is willing to help us bring him home.
Retired federal employees and retired military deserve better.
Any financial help will be much appreciated for Al and Debbie

Donations ()

  • Jerry and Fran Thimgan 
    • $300 
    • 24 mos
  • Robert Oseguera 
    • $100 
    • 30 mos
  • Martin Stringer 
    • $100 
    • 31 mos
  • Cheryl Kelly 
    • $20 
    • 32 mos
  • Dan & Debbie Wheeler 
    • $400 
    • 32 mos
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Randy Poggio 
Organizer
Orange, CA
Debra Poggio 
Beneficiary
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