Family and friends sold tamales and held raffles to raise upward of $15,000 to send Jose Chua Lopez to the Mayo Clinic for an urgently needed heart and liver transplant. But the 20-year-old Mexican born with a heart defect has twice been turned down for a US visa, and his doctor says his life is in danger. "My world has fallen down," Chua said yesterday. "This needs to be fixed quickly." His mother, Myra Lopez Martinez, said Chua has an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in 9 days, but his visa application was rejected a second time by the State Department on Tuesday. The State Department declined to comment, citing confidentiality. "The experience in Mexico for a transplant of that complexity is nil," says Chua's doctor, Dr. Ernesto Duarte, adding that "nobody can be sure that he won't deteriorate at any moment."
Chua, whose father is an Arizona resident, had a US 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. US-based Consejo de Latinos Unidos, which helps uninsured people secure medical care, stepped in to try to get Chua to the Mayo Clinic. The organization's director, Kevin Forbes, said the US Consulate in Hermosillo, where Chua lives, wrongly processed an application for a tourist visa when they should have told Chua to apply for a humanitarian visa. "We have dealt with around two dozen similar international cases," Forbes said. "They have never denied us a visa. It's the first time this has happened." Forbes said the family would file a visa application on humanitarian grounds shortly and he hopes the problem will be resolved in two or three days. He called the situation an "absolute abomination."