The Sandy Springs, Georgia couple had been trapped in the hospital for over a week after Stephen Johnson went into diabetic shock on a cruise ship, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. However, when it came time to check out of the hospital, the couple wasn’t allowed to leave without paying their entire $14,000 hospital bill. Now, Perry is footing the couple’s bill and flying them home.
According to Johnson’s fiancée Tori Austin, the hospital administrator refused to sign Johnson’s release form without receiving the money first. “I asked how much the bill was and told them we’d figure it out when we got home,” Austin said. “She said, ‘Oh, no. It has to be paid now,’” Austin said.
She added that hospital staff and local police physically stopped them from leaving the hospital a number of times. Once, the hospital admin even made them go back inside with a trashcan lid. “I appreciate them saving my life, but they can't hold me captive,” Johnson told Channel 2 Action News in an interview this week. “That's not right.”
On Friday, a spokeswoman for the hospital said Johnson isn’t being held captive, and that he’s not allowed to leave because he’s too sick to travel. “He arrived in grave condition,” the spokeswoman told Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Aside from his kidney failure and dialysis, he also has other problems and had to be treated by the cardiologist and other specialists ... Right now, he is not in a condition to even travel on a commercial plane. He would have to fly in an ambulance.”
The spokeswoman said that the hospital accepts private health insurance and credit cards. However, Johnson doesn’t have private insurance and the limit on their credit cards is less than $14,000. Before the cruise, Johnson didn’t even know he was diabetic. “It’s not that we’re trying to get out of paying the bill. We just don’t have the money right now,” Austin said.
After the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs said they were looking into the situation, Perry said that he would cover the couple’s hospital bill and fly them home. “He is truly saving my life. He is rescuing me,” Johnson told Channel 2.
In March, Perry paid for the funeral of a mother of four who was shot and killed outside a bank near Atlanta. He also offered to pay the family’s rent for six months.