Thousands of miles, thousands of dollars: Local man’s journey from sickness to health


CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A local man’s family desperately worked to get him home for a lifesaving treatment after he got sick and nearly died on his trip to Europe.

Steven and Cathy LaPidus have traveled the world. It’s a passion they’ve shared with their two children, Sarah and Jake. But in January, Steven took a solo trip to Italy to meet up with extended family members.

But two weeks into the trip, everything changed.

“I got a weird text message from him that was complete gibberish,” Sarah recalled. “I just thought that he was figuring out texting and emojis and things like that. I didn’t think anything of it until my mom called me later that night and said, ‘I think your father had a stroke.’ I was at first in shock.”

Sarah had just spoken to her father the night before.

“I told my mom I’m packing up and coming home. What should I bring? And she said funeral clothes.”

The doctors in Italy gave Steven a 50 percent chance to live.

“He was in a coma for a few days,” Cathy said. “And they said that he had sepsis and pneumonia.”

After spending two weeks with her husband in Italy, Cathy had to fly back to the United States while trying to figure out how to cover the cost of getting Steven back home to his family.

His voice and leg muscles were weakened.

“I was at the point where I couldn’t move my legs,” Steven said. “I could only move my arm about this high. This one was okay. As you can hear, my speech is slurry.”

After six-and-a-half weeks in Italy, Steven’s doctors said he was fit to fly back to the United States. For the long flight home, the airline Lufthansa built a medical pod on one of its commercial flights.

Steven was transported from Italy to Germany where he boarded a special plane modified just for him.

“What they do is in the middle of the plane, they take out four seats by four rows,” Steven explained.

In the mini ICU Pod, Steven was accompanied by a doctor and a nurse. They flew into JFK Airport and was taken by ambulance to Albany Medical Center Hospital.

“It was a long flight,” Steven said. “I left at 11 a.m. and got in at midnight. From being married and having my two kids, the best day I ever had was getting home. I wanted to be home.”

In May, Steven was at the Saratoga Center for Rehabilitation. He needed to use a walker and had to learn how to walk again. At the end of August, his dream had come true. He was back home, and his health was noticeably improving.

“After a couple of weeks, I started with a cane,” I said.

But his road to recovery cost thousands of dollars.

Luckily before he left for Italy, Steven had purchased a $79 travel insurance policy through the company Allianz.

“It was covered at 100 percent and was about $70,000,” Allianz Manager of Assistance LaShanta Sullivan said.

Without the policy, Steven said he’d probably still be stuck in Italy.

Steven says he now encourages everyone to buy travel insurance, and despite his ordeal, he would like to travel back to Italy. But first, he is focusing on getting better so he can attend his daughter’s college graduation in Tennessee this December.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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