(TYLERMORNINGTELEGRAPH) - People in two communities, in two countries and speaking two different languages have come together to help one East Texan in his time of need.
Joseph French, a former Tyler Junior College student and artist, was shot on Dec. 20 while walking home from a Christmas party at the school where he taught in Puerto Cortes, Honduras.
Joe, who was born in Honduras and raised in the Longview area, taught American literature at an all-English school for a year.
“His dream was to give back to the people where he was born at,” Joe’s father Glenn French said. “He was definitely fulfilling his dream.”
Family members said a group approached Joe for his iPhone.
“We believe it was a group of teenagers,” Glenn French said. “We don’t have all the particulars, but he was shot once in the head and several times in the upper torso.”
Glenn French said it is a miracle his son is alive. He said it took an hour and a half to get Joe to a bigger city with a trauma unit, and once there, he was immediately put in surgery for six hours. Doctors then put him in a medically induced coma because of his brain trauma.
Late last week, the medical team tested his digestive system with 2,000 calories, and he is now out of the coma but sedated. Initial CAT scans look positive, according to the family. He is expected to move into a private room today, where doctors will attempt to remove a respirator.
Doctors expect Joe to make a full recovery, but it’s still a long road ahead.
Joe is uninsured, and the tab for one day’s stay in his condition is $5,000, Glenn French said. The school picked up some of the bill but has limited funds. The family is working on chartering an ambulance plane to bring him home to Texas. The cost is about $25,000 for the trip.
“We are trying our best to get him back to Texas, but the doctors in Honduras are still in control of this,” Glenn French said.
In Honduran hospitals, if a family can’t afford the care, they are asked to leave, according to the family.
“It’s the best medical care in Honduras,” Glenn French said. “It’s not that there isn’t good care at that hospital, it’s that we don’t have the funds … and we need help.”
From the beginning, communities came together for Joe. Glenn French said teachers went directly to the hospital and began giving blood.
The school is organizing a half-marathon run to help the family, and there is a constant prayer vigil in the hospital.
“I’m totally amazed at the amount of people that are supporting this desire of God …” Glenn French said. “There’s a prayer vigil in the waiting room every day, and they are praying over him while he is in the room.”
Airline miles were donated so Joe’s mother could be by his side in Honduras, and while his body heals, several online fundraisers were set up.
As of Sunday afternoon a GoFundMe account had more than $13,000 and a GiveForward account raised more than $9,000.
Joe’s artist friends in Tyler and abroad opened the Art For French Etsy account, where they are selling their own original pieces to raise money for the family.
“Anyone who knows Joe will absolutely concur about his passion for life, people, community, art, friendships and love,” said Derrick White, art instructor at TJC. “He is a big, bearded man who, once he sees you from across the room, approaches with a big unavoidable bear hug.”
White said the TJC art club will be accepting donations on campus beginning Jan. 6, and the proceeds from their annual spring art auction will go to the family. Donations can be dropped off at room 307 in Jenkins Hall or mailed to White at P.O. Box 9020, Tyler, 75711. Checks can be made payable to the TJC Art Club.
“I will be praying for Joe and his family and encouraging everyone to help us help him,” White said. “I know he would do the same for any one of us.”