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Injured USF Student In Cuba May Fly Home Soon

USF Beta Gamma chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The University of South Florida student stuck in a Cuban hospital because her family doesn't have health insurance may be a step closer to returning home.

Barbara "Barbie" Jimenez, 22, was in a coma for five days after a car accident in Cuba. She's since come out of the coma, but has been stuck in Cuba since her family can't afford to fly her back to the U.S.

Now, according to Congressman David Jolly, a Bay area air ambulance company has offered to bring Jimenez home free of charge.

"We are working with medical providers in the region to find a facility that might care for her when she does arrive home. I am very hopeful that that will happen as early as this week," Jolly said.

In addition to the transportation company and local hospitals, Jolly said others have offered assistance as well.

"There's another family that's stepped forward and said if there are expenses in Cuba, please let (the Jimenez family) know that they might be in a position to take care of those expenses," Jolly said.

"This is really a testament to the generosity of people in the Tampa Bay area who are stepping forward to try to solve this problem for Barbara and her family," he added. "It's a special thing to see and I'm hopeful that we can get it done this week."

Jimenez, who was supposed to graduate from USF with a bachelor's degree in philosophy this fall, was seriously injured in a car accident outside of Havana on August 3. Jimenez, her boyfriend John Fox and two of her relatives were riding in a taxi cab that was struck head on by a government transportation truck.

The cab driver was killed, while Jimenez and the other three passengers were seriously injured. Fox, who works for Northrop Grumman in Melbourne, Florida, was airlifted from Havana to a Miami hospital, where he continues recovering from his injuries. The two other passengers, Jimenez's cousin and aunt, are both in stable condition.

Credit Beta Gamma chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Jimenez's sister, who traveled to Cuba to be with her, says her sister has head trauma and a tracheotomy that makes it difficult for her to speak. In addition, she reportedly doesn't know why she's in the hospital.

Jimenez's medical insurance had recently lapsed, and her family can't afford to fly her back home. In addition, several air ambulance companies turned down requests to transport her due to U.S.-Cuban relations. Northrop Grumman, which paid for Fox's transportation to Miami, told the family they could fly her home, but it would cost $50,000.

Members of Jimenez's sorority, the Beta Gamma chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha, are raising money to assist the family. As of Tuesday afternoon, a GoFundMe campaign has raised over $15,000 of the $75,000 the sorority is trying to collect.

Mark Schreiner has been the producer and reporter for "University Beat" on WUSF 89.7 FM since 2001 and on WUSF TV from 2007-2017.