HEALTH

Mexican man in need of heart and liver transplant applies for U.S. visa for third time

In this May 2, 2014 photo, Jose Chua Lopez and his mother during a news conference in Hermosillo, Mexico.

In this May 2, 2014 photo, Jose Chua Lopez and his mother during a news conference in Hermosillo, Mexico.

A young Mexican man who is urgently trying to travel to the Mayo Clinic for a double-organ transplant has filed a third application for entry into the United States after twice being denied a visa.

Jose Chua, 20, who suffers from a life-threatening condition, was turned down Tuesday for the second time for a tourist visa, the normal manner in which foreigners seek medical treatment in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of State has not explained why, citing visa applications as confidential.

Chua was born with only one ventricle in his heart, causing circulation problems that mean blood reaches only one of the four chambers. His liver has also been damaged and he needs a heart and liver double-transplant, a procedure that is not performed in his home country.

Family and friends raised more than $15,000 to defray the initial costs of his treatment at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

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Kevin Forbes, director of the U.S.-based Consejo de Latinos Unidos, which helps uninsured people get access to medical care, said the new application has been expedited.

He added that once Chua is allowed to enter the U.S., the group plans to press a formal complaint with the U.S. government.

"The problem goes beyond Jose. ... The situation has become complicated and raises doubts as to the motives of why a consulate would deny a visa on two occasions and did not directly offer a humanitarian visa," Forbes said.

The State Department lists medical need as one reason for granting tourism visas.

Chua's mother, Mayra Lopez, said she believed he was denied the visa due to concerns about his ability to support himself financially for the trip. The family is now seeking a humanitarian parole from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Chua, whose father is an Arizona resident, had a U.S. visa until he was 15. But when it expired, his family didn't renew it because they didn't have money to pay for more trips.

In correspondence shared by Forbes with The Associated Press, he expressed exasperation at feeling like he was being given the run-around by U.S. officials in his attempts to help Chua.

One email referred him to a State Department webpage and an automated customer service phone number, a response he called "an absolute abomination."

"Officials, including in the State Department, should defend those who seek help, not become apologists for outdated policies and processes," Forbes said.

Chua underwent three open-heart surgeries between the ages of 5 months and 12 years, including a cardiac implant that stopped working properly in 2013.

The surgery itself could end up costing around $2 million, Chua's family says.

Chua, who dreams of becoming a doctor despite his delicate health, said Wednesday that his "world has fallen down" over the visa denials.

"This needs to be fixed quickly," he said.

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