Emergency premature birth leaves San Antonio couple stuck in Greece

Baby not healthy enough to travel, family says they're running out of money

SAN ANTONIO – Stuck in Greece for six months, a San Antonio family says they are living a nightmare. Born prematurely, their new daughter is not allowed to travel yet, and they're running out of money.

Karina Villalonga talked with KSAT on the phone and explained how her dream Greek vacation turned into a desperate situation.

Before Karina Villalonga got pregnant, she and her husband Yandi had planned a trip to Greece. In November, she was only 22 weeks pregnant, and her doctor said she could travel.

"He said I was doing great, and I was healthy and it would be fine for us to go on the trip," she said.

However, two days into their vacation, Karina started to feel sick.

"I started to have some bleeding. That's when I went to the hospital and they told me your cervix is already dilated four centimeters," she explained.

Doctors told her she couldn't leave the hospital in Athens and she would not be allowed to fly home to Texas.

After weeks of bed-rest, their daughter Mia was born premature at 26 weeks. Karina said it was a frightening experience, but the doctors were wonderful.

"The technology and stuff is not as good as the U.S.A. but they were good enough that they were able to save my baby's life," she said.

After a few months Mia was able to leave the hospital, but she wasn't allowed to get on an airplane. Her poorly developed lungs still might collapse in high altitude.

The only way the family could get back to the U.S. now would be in an air ambulance, which would cost $100,000. 

"There's no way we can get the money," Karina said.

Doctors told the couple Mia won't be strong enough to handle a commercial flight until she's at least a year old.

That means they have to spend at least another six months in Greece.

"It's really hard for us, we're really frustrated. We don't know what to do," Karina said.

They have a small apartment in Athens, but soon they won't be able to pay rent. They have no income since they're not working and they can't get a visa to work in Greece. The couple says they've used all their savings, and their families are running out of money too.

"We have been getting some help here through the churches here in Greece for donations with food and stuff like that, but it's hard. There's no way I think we could stay here another year," Karina said.

The financial crisis in Greece is impacting the family too. They say there are strikes every day, which sometimes close down the metro system. The hospitals are only open four days a week, but still, they bring Mia in for a checkup every two weeks.

They've sent letters to President Obama, members of the U.S. Congress, and the military, but so far no one has offered to help.

Karina said she holds her daughter every day and tries to think about the positives.

"The most important thing is that she's alive and she's safe," she said.

Still, the couple is hoping for another miracle.

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