A 24-year-old Hispanic male came into the emergency room of a large public teaching hospital with acute cardiac failure and chest pain. He was admitted and diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease and regurgitation and stenosis of both mitral and aortic valves. Medical judgment concluded that the patient needed to be medically stabilized and then undergo cardiac surgery to repair heart valves. The patient spoke only Spanish. Investigation through an interpreter revealed that he was an illegal alien from a Central American country who has lived in this country for five to seven years. He came to the United States so that he could receive treatment for his heart condition, evidently fearing that he would not receive treatment in his home country. The patient entered this country through the assistance of some distant relatives. He did not have a strong support system.
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