Quelino Ojeda Jimenez, Quadriplegic Undocumented Immigrant Deported Over Hospital Bills, Dies In Mexico

An undocumented Mexican immigrant deported from Chicago after an on-the-job injury paralyzed him died Sunday while in the care of a small, Mexican hospital unequipped to handle his complications.

Quelino Ojeda Jimenez had been living and working construction jobs in Chicago when he fell 20 feet off a building near Midway Airport in August 2010, sustaining spinal injuries that paralyzed him from the neck down, UPI reports. He was being treated at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn until he was unable to pay his medical expenses. After a heated battle between the hospital and immigration advocates, he was deported on Dec. 22, 2010 to a Mexican hospital in an air ambulance in spite of protests from Ojeda Jimenez and his family.

The one-story concrete facility in Oaxaca where Ojeda Jimenez spent the next year was ill-equipped to handle his extensive medical needs--replacing the filters on his ventilator was too costly, so hospital staff merely cleaned them once a day, according to the Chicago Tribune. After suffering two episodes of cardiac arrest and developing a septic infection, Ojeda Jimenez was transferred to a larger hospital in Juchitan Dec. 19, but succumbed to sepsis and pneumonia in the early morning after New Year's Eve.

Ojeda Jimenez's transfer ignited a debate over immigrant rights that was championed by the Mexican consulate in Chicago, whose head official Joaquín Pastrana attended a Mass held in Ojeda Jimenez's honor at a Logan Square church Sunday, along with other activists, according to Fox News Latino.

In light of Ojeda Jimenez's death, Advocate Health Care issued a statement expressing regret for its handling of his case, and announcing plans to work with advocacy groups to reexamine its policies for treating international patients, according to the Tribune. Ojeda Jimenez told the newspaper in February that he feared returning to Mexico because he "need[ed] a lot of things they don't have," a sentiment echoed by relatives and supporters since his death.

See earlier coverage of the case from Chicago's Spanish-language newspaper, Hoy: