‘Help bring Bob Jornales home’
By DIANA REGIER
News Review Correspondent
“Please help support the Jornales family, bring Bob home healthy!” This is the plea found on the story page of a recently begun GoFundMe account for Bob Jornales’ medical expenses. Son Darrius Thompson along with his wife, Shannon, started the account and Shannon writes the posts, as well as replying to the many donors and well-wishers.
Last month, while visiting Panama with his wife, Hanh, Bob suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. His ordeal began on Friday, Feb. 24. The GoFundMe account was set up several days later as the family realized that providing health care while he was overseas was going to require many expensive, up-front costs.
Bob and Hanh Jornales are long- time residents of Ridgecrest. According to his youngest daughter, Mary, Bob came to Ridgecrest right out of UCLA and worked as an electrical engineer at China Lake for 33 years. He retired in 1995. Hanh opened Hanh’s Hair Design in Ridgecrest around 1983. Her establishment is readily visible at the intersection of China Lake and Ridgecrest Boulevards.
Initially Bob was admitted to the Hospital Santos Tomas in Panama City where he was expected to stay for seven to 10 days, but the care he was receiving was below standard. He was experiencing rising blood pressure, dizziness and headache.
The family determined that they could not risk leaving him in this situation with very little monitoring or regular checks.
Mary, Bob’s youngest daughter, arrived in Panama several days after he suffered his stroke and has since been able to provide much comfort and assistance to both Bob and Hanh. Through her efforts they found a private hospital that could provide much better care and medical assistance to Bob.
Mary worked tirelessly to get the necessary paperwork while dealing with the language barrier; she visited the hospital, meeting with the physician, and then arranged the ambulance to transport Bob to the new hospital.
Bob is now in the Hospital Punta Pacifica and receiving much better care. However, this improved situation came with an upfront cost of $15,000 to cover the ambulance and the hospital admission.
This move was a great improvement over the minimal care and sporadic checks provided by the first hospital. Upon Bob’s admission at Punta Pacifica, the doctors ordered a CT scan, blood work and vitals along with taking preventive measures against further complications as well as beginning physical therapy.
Bob’s condition and progress can be followed on the GoFundMe website posts. According to Shannon’s post, Update 2, “Bob has no sensation on his right side, difficulty hearing and speaking clearly, but is able to lift his arm and communicate.”
A later post mentions that he has suffered from some gastric issues and a possible seizure, but the physical therapist has said his strength and ability to do the exercises improve. Regulating his blood pressure is also a continued concern. It is still not known when his overall condition will improve so he can be released from the ICU and ultimately be able to come home.
Beyond the medical situation is the constant behind-the-scenes effort by the family to deal with the cost of the care and submit the paperwork required for insurance coverage. The first hospital was slow to release the paperwork. After several days, much difficulty, and “many calls to to the embassy,” according to Shannon’s post, “Mary finally got Bob’s records from the first hospital.”
There is a concerted effort by family members stateside and Mary’s efforts in Panama to piece together insurance coverage, but until then all expenses are paid out of pocket. Medicare is not available for overseas medical expenses.
In her Upate 6, Shannon says, “Mary has been a rock for all of us and has endured so much stress and frustration, all with a smile on her face for her dad. She is a wonderful daughter (and sister)!”
Bob’s son, Darrius, has been working on the possibility of a medical evacuation. He has located a medical flight company that is willing to contact Bob’s insurance (medical and travel) to fight for a discounted flight!
A medevac, or air ambulance is a Lear jet fully outfitted to serve as an ambulance; a nurse is part of the onboard team, and often a physician travels with the patient for inflight care. The family hopes to have more information in a few days about the possible flight and also insight on when Bob will return to the U.S.A medevac comes at a steep price tag of $56,000, a large reason for starting the GoFundMe account.
Another unknown Shannon shared says, “Once Bob is able to come home, it is uncertain whether they will release him to home care with a neurologist and PT, etc., or if he will need to be in a skilled nursing facility.” The family has begun to line up a neurologist and physical therapy in Ridgecrest if he is released to home care.
There is a bright side to Bob’s extended stay in Panama. He has had a visit from one of his friends as well as a doctor whose husband is a cousin of his daughter Rose’s friend. He has also had an opportunity to improve his Spanish, practicing with an English-Spanish dictionary that Mary and Hanh picked up for him.
Experiencing a stroke at any time can be harrowing and exhausting, but to have such an experience while traveling abroad is beyond the ability of most to comprehend. Navigating the medical and insurance aspects of such an ordeal while at home requires a herculean effort, but to have to do the same across international borders defies the imagination until it is the reality.
The children of Bob and Hanh Jornales have forged a unit of solidarity, working tirelessly, both in Panama and stateside to provide Bob with the best medical care possible and working with insurance for the funding of that care and the hoped-for return home. They have given from all their resources, both time and financial, to do this for their beloved father.
The family is grateful to the Ridgecrest community which has “once again amazed us with their support.”
Shannon shares in Update 7, “Our family is so overcome with the many donations and prayers we have received — one of life’s riches is the willingness to share one’s blessings with others, and you have all gone above and beyond. A special thank you to those that have brought donations to St. Ann’s school in Ridgecrest, as well as the Haefle and Bullock families, who not only donated, but held a garage and bake sale to raise funds.
“We are grateful for all of your generosity and keep your families in our prayers!”
The posts and videos sent have also been encouraging and appreciated. “The personal notes help lift his spirits and pass the time.” “Please keep praying for Bob’s marked improvement — we are desperate to have him home!”
The family asks that, if you have a free moment, you send a few words of encouragement or a picture to share with Bob — long days in the hospital can be boring, and hearing about what is happening at home helps pass the time.
For more information see www. gofundme.com/bob-jornales-medical-expenses.
Pictured: Robert Jornales, pictured in the hospital with his wife, Hanh. -- Courtesy photoStory First Published: 2017-03-10