Medical Tourism Hits Home For One Fargo Woman

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Many travel across the ocean to explore, escape and take it easy. But there's another reason to travel, each year, more than 750,000 people living in the U.S., head to another country for medical care.

Melissa Kava's family and friends from Fargo came to wish her the best after her surgery.

"She's been to specialist, all over Canada, U.S. and Mexico and no one could help her," says Kava's Brother Michael Rognlien.

She's battling blindness. She has 22% of her sight in one eye and completely blind in the other. They were refereed to a specialist in the United Kingdom and her family managed to send her there. The surgery will stop the deterioration but her family says she can't drive, work or focus on something for too long.

"She's doing great, her healing is great, she's just doing a wonderful job," says her friend, Melissa Wilson.

They're not alone in needing a passport to under-go a medical procedure. "Medical tourism" is expected to grow substantially in the next 5 to 10 years, according to the CDC. While it can come with it's risks, for some procedures the costs savings can be up to 90%. That's according to the Medical Tourism Association. On the other hand, most patients must pay out of pocket for their expenses.

"Part of the surgery is FDA approved in the states for glaucoma, but since she had to put deadening lenses in her eye, that's not FDA approved, I think that's ridiculous, here's a woman who's worked her whole life, an American who had insurance and can't use it and has to fly to another country to get what she needs," says Rognlien.

While Melissa's family says the procedure is worth it, they're out $300,000. Something her brother says need to change.

"A tenth of 1% of people have her issue, so you can't make money off that, when so few people have it, in other countries they're not trying to treat the pain, they're trying to cure you."

The family says at this point, all they can do is help support her anyway they can.