CONCORD, Calif. — When Kevin Stewart's doctor told him late last year that he had advanced cirrhosis of the liver and would need a transplant or face certain death, Stewart never thought that his salvation existed half a world away in India.
That changed when Stewart, a resident of Big Pine Key, Fla., learned of the cost to have the procedure done in the United States —about $350,000 — and after the federal government and public and private hospitals repeatedly rejected his pleas for financial assistance.
Stewart, his options exhausted, discovered almost by accident WorldMed Assist LLC, a California company that arranges high-end medical treatment abroad for its clients at prices that are far less-expensive than what they would pay in the United States.
Concord-based WorldMed Assist took Stewart on as a client and arranged for him to travel to India earlier this summer for a liver transplant surgery. His sister, Jo-Ann Hall of Ottawa, Canada, donated a portion of her liver to Stewart — a procedure known as live-donor liver transplant. Subhash Gupta, a liver-transplant specialist with Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in New Delhi and the chief of the hospital's liver surgery unit, performed the transplantation.
Stewart paid approximately $55,000 for his surgery and hospitalization — $275,000 less than what it would have cost to have it done in the United States. "Having this surgery in the [United States] would have wiped me out," Stewart said. "Having someone help me get the transplant I needed in India — with top-notch doctors in a great hospital, at a fraction of the cost — saved me so much money that I flew my girlfriend and Jo-Ann's husband to India to help us recuperate. This surgery has given me back a life I thought was lost."