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When an Immigrant Has TB, Sam Blows the Whistle
By Moira McMahon, Researcher
In Episode 316, Fear of Flying, Sam and Addison take care of Elisha and Esau. Elisha is about to deliver a baby, who has been diagnosed in utero with a repairable heart defect. After delivery, the child will require a series of sophisticated operative procedures in the first few years of life.
Esau and Elisha are preparing to marry. Esau is Kenyan, living in the US to get his doctorate degree. Unfortunately in the midst of his studies, he's allowed his visa to expire. To straighten out his immigrant status and marry Elisha, he's come to visit Sam for a physical, which he needs for his new visa application.
Sam and Addison discover that Esau's 'mild cough' is in fact Tuberculosis. Though immigration will not deport someone solely because of health issues, Esau is already on an expired visa. To treat his infectious disease, Esau needs to be in isolation for six months or more. He begs Sam to lie on the immigration health form. Sam says he won't lie on the form, but he will treat him before he hands it in. Perhaps there's still a way to keep Esau with his fiancé here in the states.
Sam's first concern is the health of Esau, and in turn, the health of anyone he comes in contact with. TB is an infectious disease and can be spread just by being in a room with someone who has active TB.
Addison's concern is that Elisha needs to stay in the country to get the high level care her baby will need after it's born. If Esau's expired visa sends him back to Kenya, then Elisha is facing a long road ahead as a heartbroken single mother. Addison thinks if Sam can help keep the family together by treating Esau before they complete the paperwork, then he should put that before anything else.
They start the TB treatment, but Esau's in so much fear over losing his family, he bolts.
Fearing he will spread TB in the community, Sam calls immigration, reporting Esau's expired visa. Esau returns to see his child being born. Immediately thereafter immigration officials take Esau into custody to be held at a detention center. Esau and Elisha won't be reunited for a long time.
Sam seems noble, but if doctors start reporting expired visas to the authorities, no illegal immigrants would seek medical care. This could lead to infectious diseases, like TB, spreading. Shouldn't everyone who is sick have the right to care without fear of their doctor reporting them for a crime?
What do YOU think?
To learn more about Tuberculosis and what can be done to prevent it, please click here.