On March 23, 2005, divemaster Ellis Nicholas was thrown from the bow of the Paradise Down dive boat by a large wave in the reef channel. Although several others were thrown from the boat, Ellis sustained the only serious injury. The prow of the boat struck him in the head, and the propeller wash drew him into the blades. Ellis suffered a severe laceration to the anterior and lateral right forearm. After nine days at Karl Huesner (public) Hospital, in Belize City, he was tranferred -- at the suggestion of the attending physician -- to Hospital Centro Medico in Guatemala City. The following is a transcript of two separate, typed hard copies issued and signed by Dr. Gustavo Lopez, the Guatemalan surgeon who reconstructed the arm.
Please note: These letters were not written by a native English speaker, and we have tried to maintain the original wording throughout. Also, the estimated hospital bill, as stated in Letter #2, has already been exceeded and continues to increase daily. As of April 17th the combined cost of surgical fees and hospital fees was $21,034.73. The hospital is holding Ellis's passport and will not release him until the bill is canceled in its entirety.
If you have questions, or would like further information, please contact Ellen Nicholas at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Lopez at email@example.com.
We're in the process of establishing a trust fund for Ellis, and all contributions would be greatly appreciated. Checks may be sent to Ryan Fried c/o of Rhonda Fried, 601 Breckenridge, Wayne, NJ 07470-4074.
Thank you for your time.
Ellis's friends and family
April 07th, 2005
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
We have the privilege to see Mr. Ellis Nicholas on April 1st on admission to Hospital Centro Medico with a large defect on his right forearm. He was admitted to the operating room and we performed an evaluation and a debridgement and a dressing change of his wounds. On Saturday, April 2nd, we performed two free flaps.
Microsurgical tissue transfers were performed on his right hand. Microvascular nerve transfer from his right leg and a vein to supply [blood] flow to the hand. And then a muscle from his back to cover the defect on his forearm, twenty-four for twenty-two centimeters of defect.
This procedure involved eleven hours of surgery and a team of surgeons highly trained in microsurgery and very special equipment.
At this moment the patient is quite well, with all his defects covered. We have to wait for antibiotic treatment for at least two weeks.
At this moment our surgical fee is U.S. $10,000. . . .
Gustavo A. Lopez Paz
April 07th, 2005
In addition to the surgical fees, the [current] hospital charge will be approximately $15,000 [Please see note above].
This includes hospital stay, surgical time, intensive care unit fees, and medicines such as antibiotics and painkillers, respiratory therapy and dressing changes.
For a period of six months from today [April 7th, 2005] , Ellis will require phyisical therapy every day ($5,000) and at that time we will evaluate his functions and decide what further surgery he will require. We can expect loss of flexion and extention in his fingers. He will need a muscle free tissue transfer from his leg. If sensation is still compromised, he will need a free nerve transfer.
The potential cost of these procedures would be approx. $20,000.
The total cost of rehabilitating the arm would then be between forty-five to fifty thousand dollars U.S.