Barbara Anderson, The Fresno Bee, January 3, 2012
Doctors say Marco Antonio Fuentes is well enough to go home today.
Fuentes has spent 374 days at Community Regional Medical Center, the longest uninterrupted stay by a patient at the Fresno acute-care hospital, according to staff recollection.
“God has helped me to make it in here and to make it out of here,” Fuentes said softly from the edge of his hospital bed Tuesday.
Doctors struggled to keep him alive since Fuentes was admitted to the hospital Dec. 26, 2010, with an excruciating belly ache.
Fuentes’ abdomen was full of infection. Surgeons could do little that first day but drain the abscesses and sew him up, said physician assistant Neydi Salaverri-Edmonds.
Necrotizing pancreatitis, an infection of the pancreas, had eaten away tissues, including his intestines, she said.
Fuentes had 12 surgeries overseen by three trauma physicians — Drs. Jim Davis, Ricard Townsend and Kunjan Bhakta.
For 11 months and two weeks, he was too ill to eat food or have water. He was fed intravenously. The open wound in his stomach needed daily dressing changes.
For the shy Fuentes of Kerman, who worked as a farm laborer since 1997, words came slowly Tuesday, especially trying to describe a year spent in a hospital bed. But Salaverri-Edmonds helped fill in gaps and interpreted Spanish for the patient she has grown to know in the year he has been in her care.
He thanks God — and doctors and nurses — he’s alive, and the hospital for his care, he said. Fuentes, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, has no health insurance.
On Tuesday, the final cost of Fuentes’ care was not available. Much of it will be taken on by the hospital as charity care.
Last year, for all patients, the hospital provided $100 million on charity care, according to hospital spokeswoman Mary Lisa Russell.
On Dec. 20, hospital staff threw him a Christmas party. For that occasion, he had homemade enchiladas. They were “really, really” good, he said.
He’s stronger now. He can dress himself, make his bed — and walk, using a cane for balance. After a couple of weeks convalescing at an uncle’s home in Red Bluff, Fuentes will go to Mexico to live with his parents and work at their small, tortilla-making business.