Alexis Hernandez, 25, a Puerto Rican resident, suffered burns over most of his body in a gas explosion in Guadalajara, Mexico, in January 2019. He was treated at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, and his hospital bills totaled $1.7 million.
“Now, I know that anything is possible,” Hernandez said. “I feel great because I have 1.7 million reasons to smile.”
Reps. Nydia Velazquez, a New York Democrat, and Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat, reached out to relevant government officials after hearing about his hospital bills and sought to get the fees waived for him.
Hernandez, who was studying medicine at the time of the accident, spent seven months in the hospital and had 19 surgeries after the boiler exploded when he went to turn it on to get hot water for a shower. He was taken to a Mexican hospital, but as an American citizen, he was flown to the U.S. Army’s Institute of Surgical Research.
“The flames were all over the apartment and the building. And I had to run through the flames in the apartment looking for a way out. In the end, I almost lost my life,” he told CBS News. “I start from zero again. I learn how to walk, how to eat, how to breathe, how to see, how to dress myself, how to do everything again.”
Hernandez’s father, Jamie, said his insurance didn’t cover his son’s injuries because the accident took place in Mexico.
The U.S. treasury sent him a bill saying he owed $1.7 million, although his local representatives sent letters to the Treasury, Defense, and Justice departments, asking for the debt to be forgiven.