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The illness experience of an undocumented immigrant in the USA


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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