Virginia Woman Pleads for Help After Husband Left in Vegetative State Volunteering in Peru

Despite having health and travel insurance policies, Emily Van de Ven has had to pay for her husband's care — more than $250,000 — out of pocket. "I just have done everything I can to save his life because if I don't pay, he will die," she said

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A Virginia woman is asking for help and issuing a warning to other families as she grapples with her husband's rising medical bills after he was struck by an SUV while volunteering in Peru.

For the past seven months, Emily Van de Ven has had to pay out of pocket for her husband’s care, but now she’s running out of money and options.

“Full of life, full of energy, so active, to see him like, just waste away to nothing, is heartbreaking,” Van de Ven said. 

The couple had been volunteering at an orphanage in Lima, Peru, when 43-year-old Benjamin Jung was hit by an SUV in February. 

The crash was so severe that he barely survived.

“He never regained consciousness from the accident. He was in a coma. He had polytrauma, so trauma all over his body, broken bones,” Van de Ven said. “His ribs were all broken. He had to be put on mechanical ventilation. He was on life support, severe head injury.”

Jung has been in a vegetative state since the accident. Van de Ven said that was just the beginning of their ordeal.

Despite having health and travel insurance policies, she’s had to pay for his care — more than $250,000 — out of pocket. In countries such as Peru, patients must pay up front and provide supplies to receive treatment.

“He had to have an emergency tracheotomy, and they wouldn't do the surgery for two days because we had to provide the tracheotomy kit,” she said. 

In order to finance it all, Van de Ven said she’s emptied their accounts, maxed out all of their credit cards and their house is going into foreclosure. And because she never acquired power of attorney, she can’t sell any assets under his name. 

“It’s something you never think about,” she said. “I didn't know I needed this. I thought as a wife I just have automatic rights.”

She detailed more about the situation in a Facebook post, writing, "After 22 years together, I never even knew I needed a POA."

Van de Ven said Jung has shown some signs of improvement, but he’s still far too weak to be medically evacuated to the U.S., which would cost more than $75,000. With money and options running out, she started an online fundraiser to help cover the costs, and she’s looking for any legal help she can get. 

“I just have done everything I can to save his life because if I don't pay, he will die,” Van de Ven said. 

Van de Ven said they met 22 years ago in a college music theory class and have been married for 17 years. 

She hopes her story will strike a chord with the right people, so they can get the help they need. 

“That is the only thing keeping me going because it is overwhelming, and then to know, if I don’t continue, no one is going to take care of him,” she said. “There is no choice. And when your back is against the wall, you know, you have a choice to sink or swim, and that’s where I am.”

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