Filmmaker Tyler Perry is being hailed as a “superhero” after stepping in to help an Atlanta-area couple who said they were held “hostage” at a Mexican hospital over an unpaid medical bill.
Now, their debt is officially wiped clean.
“God bless Tyler Perry, and thank you so much,” said Stephen Johnson, who’s been stuck in Mexico for the last several days, adding, “You’re a superhero to me.”
Johnson’s dream vacation with fiancée Tori Austin turned nightmarish after he suffered a medical emergency aboard a Carnival cruise line last week. He went into diabetic shock and had to be hospitalized at a facility in the Mexican port city of Progreso.
After three days in intensive care, the couple was hit with a $14,000 medical bill. They offered to pay half the bill upfront, then work out an installment plan and even offered to sign a promissory note. But the hospital refused to let them leave until the bill was paid in full.
“I appreciate them saving my life,” Johnson told Atlanta station WSB-TV via FaceTime. “But they can’t hold me captive. That’s not right.”
The pair alleges they were even assaulted by staff, who tried to physically block them from leaving the hospital last Tuesday. In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Austin said hospital staff even locked the windows in their rooms.
“We simply can’t leave until this $14,000 bill is paid,” she said.
Johnson was treated for diabetes, pancreatitis and an acute kidney infection but the hospital decided to hold him after learning he didn’t have traveler’s insurance to cover the services rendered.
After hearing the couple’s story on “GMA,” Perry contacted WSB-TV and eventually got in touch with Johnson and his fiancée directly. Johnson recalled the moment he heard the movie mogul on the other end of his phone.
“I was just in disbelief, to be honest,” he said, noting that Perry called his personal cellphone. “He just said, ‘Hey, I wanna pay your bill.’ He captured my heart, just from him being so generous.”
Perry, 50, is no stranger to giving back. Earlier this year, he offered to help the children of a metro Atlanta woman fatally shot by her lover.
Not only did the “Madea” star pay off Johnson’s medical debt, but has also offered to cover the couple’s travel expenses as soon as they’re cleared to leave. It’s unclear when Johnson and Austin will return to the States, but Austin said in a recent online post the that hospital is expected to release Johnson on Monday.
Watch more in the clip below.