Javier Tellez Juarez, the Mexican migrant farm worker who lost both arms and a leg in a farm accident Dec. 13 near Malta, Idaho, says he doesn't think too far ahead.
"I'm just trying to get better each day - one day at a time," he said Tuesday from his bed in University Hospital, where rehabilitation and other staff are trying to prepare him for his release from the hospital.Despite extensive injuries that occurred two months ago in a tractor powered post-hole digging accident, Tellez manages an occasional smile under his heavy moustache. He says he's grateful for his wife, Norma; his now 5-month-old daughter, Cristina, and other family members.
And Tellez, who speaks no English, also expressed appreciation through an interpreter, hospital spokesman John Dwan, to all who have helped him in other ways. He referred, among other things, to contributions to trust funds established for the family.
Tell the public "thanks for everything they have done to help me," Tellez said, after visiting with Dr. James R. Swenson, who heads the hospital rehabilitation division. Swenson was reservedin his assessment of what lies ahead for Tellez. He indicated that his future depends on many things, including whether he lives in the United States or Mexico, money that might be available and many other factors.
Specialists have developed several options for possible rehabilitation of Tellez, 24. However, the extent of the rehabilitation depends on the availability of funds to pay for prosthesis that may benefit him. Possible rehabilitation also depends on the necessary training for Tellez and his family, Dwan said.
Tellez will be asked to make decisions in these and other matters in consultation with his family, his lawyers and doctors, Dwan said.
Tellez said Tuesday that he is "well" and his family is OK. Several family members have come from Mexico and other areas and are now living in a Sugar House-area home. A date has not been set for the Tellez's release from the hospital.
Dwan said that high-tech artificial arms, for example, cost about $50,000 each. As of Monday, the man's hospital bill, excluding physician charges, totaled $376,000. Much of the hospital's efforts have been aimed at trying to determine what, if any, government or other funds the indigent man might be entitled.
Even if the funds for artificial arms or other equipment were available, "we still don't know if they would work on him," Dwan said. The man's arms were ripped from his body at the shoulders. When Tellez first entered the hospital, surgeons tried unsuccessfully to reattach one of his arms.
Hospital workers regularly put him in an electric wheelchair. Dwan said that equipment alone would cost about $16,000. But the major questions, he said, are who will pay the hospital and physician charges, for equipment and extensive, long-term personal care he will require when he leaves the hospital?
Dwan said hospital billing workers and the hospital's Idaho attorney have been working to de-ter-mine who will pay accumulated costs and for future care. He said the hospital will not seek any monies donated by the public to the family through trust funds. But he said the hospital "will go after all funds that are available or that may become available to pay hospital and doctor bills."
Tellez confirmed Tuesday that a Salt Lake attorney, who said several weeks ago that he had volunteered his services without charge, was recently dismissed by the family. No reason was given for the dismissal. Tellez said his father, Melecio Tellez-Cordova, is coordinating legal affairs for the family. He said attorney Joe Steele has been hired, and a Twin Falls attorney, Ken Pederson, has also been retained to assist in the case.