TRURO — John Hopkins went to Costa Rica to do yoga, meditate, and otherwise boost his immune system. He has ended up fighting for his life in a private hospital that doesn’t accept his insurance.
Hopkins, 71, the retired owner of Augustus Construction, has survived a now four-year-old diagnosis of stage-four renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer. He and his wife, Debbie McCullough Hopkins, a nurse, run Pure Joy Farm in Truro and are members of the High Dune Craft Cooperative. She is with him now in Central America.
“On Valentine’s Day, after our morning yoga, we went to work out in the waves at Playa Grande,” his friend Tracy Plaut of Wellfleet wrote by email from Costa Rica.
After body surfing, Hopkins complained of pain. Hours later, he began vomiting. A clinic treated him for a gut bacteria, but the next day “things were far worse,” Plaut wrote. “By the time we got back to the clinic John was in septic shock.”
He had perforated and twisted part of his intestines while body surfing. He also aspirated his vomit, causing bilateral septic shock.
A four-hour ride at high speed in the middle of the night, with Plaut driving behind the ambulance, got them to a private hospital in San José, the capital. It was the only hospital, they were told, that could deal with Hopkins’s condition.
His breathing became so compromised during the trip that the ambulance had to stop midway at a public hospital to have him intubated, reported Plaut, who has a nursing degree and is a holistic healer.
For three days, everyone thought he would die, she wrote.
On the fifth day his vitals were still too weak for him to get a CT scan. Eventually a scan was done, and on Feb. 22 Hopkins had surgery to repair an incarcerated inguinal hernia.
But Hopkins, a Vietnam veteran turned peace activist, is still fighting for his life. Though the bilateral pneumonia he developed has cleared and the breathing tube was removed Monday, his condition remains tenuous, Plaut wrote.
“He is fighting like I’ve never seen anyone fight,” she wrote. “The doctors can’t get over it.”
To add to the stress, the hospital costs $5,000 a day, said Hopkins’s nephew, Jacob Gesin.
Friends and family have maxed out their credit cards and have been negotiating daily to continue the care that has so far saved his life.
Gesin started a GoFundMe campaign that, as of Tuesday, had raised nearly $20,000 of a $30,000 goal in just three days.
The family hopes to get Hopkins home, though a medical flight could cost $60,000, Gesin stated.
“I have been able to play John messages through my WhatsApp from his wide community and it makes him smile and cry and fight harder,” Plaut wrote. “He promised me he is coming through this.”