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The illness experience of an undocumented immigrant in the USA
  1. Jared G Blommel,
  2. Andres R Chacon,
  3. Stuart J Bagatell
  1. University of Miami/JFK Medical Center Palm Beach Regional GME Consortium, The Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, Miami, Florida, USA
  1. Correspondence to Jared G Blommel, jared.blommel{at}


Approximately 11 million people living and working in the USA do so without documentation. This group represents a disenfranchised minority with adverse experiences and unique comorbidities that faces significant obstacles to receiving healthcare, including fear of deportation, language barriers, financial barriers and difficulty navigating an inconsistent and fragmented system. Healthcare is therefore often sought once symptoms have become critical, which can lead to more severe disease processes and multiple new diagnoses at presentation even in previously healthy patients. Here we present the case of a previously healthy 32-year-old undocumented immigrant who presented to a South Florida hospital with abdominal pain, diarrhoea and leg pain. He was diagnosed with both diabetes mellitus and chronic myelogenous leukaemia after a prolonged 20-day hospital stay. Culturally sensitive providers and dedicated staff play a major role in connecting patients to outpatient care after an acute illness, which most often occurs at charity clinics.

  • migration and health
  • primary care
  • diabetes
  • global health

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  • Contributors SJB: identified the patient’s case as being a potential report, conceived the clinical lessons, wrote the clinical aspects of the case presentation and created a narrative for what optimal treatment would have been like for the patient. ARC: spoke with the patient to write his illness experience, beliefs, and a more comprehensive biography. JGB: identified the global health problem list and the framework for the analysis, adapting the clinical lessons to fit a global health perspective.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.