Karlo Franjko, the Mahoning County man stuck in Europe for months battling illness, is now back on American soil.
“We know that if it wasn't for the help from churches, community, you guys and other folks, this would not have been possible,” said Dan Franjko, his son.
Until this week, Karlo was too sick to fly home from Croatia, where they went to visit friends and family in August. The 74-year-old started showing symptoms of West Nile Virus, likely contracted before he ever left. Franjko emigrated from Croatia in the 1960s.
Karlo spent seven weeks in intensive care, then a nursing home, suffering from Encephalitis and other complications, including MRSA. Once cleared of that superbug, he was able to fly home on a stretcher -- stacked over rows of regular airplane seats with his wife Zora nearby.
That was a $40,000 flight through Turkish Airlines to Washington D.C.
“You’re paying for three rows of seats on the plane, plus all the accommodations with the air medic, which is basically like an ambulance with a paramedic,” said Dan. “They have everything to address any potential problems that could happen while flying.”
The couple’s home church in New Middletown, St. Paul The Apostle Catholic Church, pitched with fundraisers. So did St. Paul Croatian Church here in Cleveland taking donations earlier this month to bring Karlo home.
Karlo went straight to Inova Hospital where his daughter, Darla, works as a physical therapist in Mount Vernon, Virginia. First, he'll get the medical care he's been needing – then spend weeks in acute rehab regaining skills.
“This is a direct result of faith and prayer. We've received a lot of support, too, which enabled us to pay for the flight and everything to get Dad back home,” said Dan. They have learned insurance will only cover half of $50,000 medical bills he accumulated abroad.
The family has several ties to Northeast Ohio as well. Zora Franjko emigrated in 1968 to greater Cleveland. Dan graduated from John Carroll University and got his masters from Kent State.
The Franjko family has also set up a GoFundMe page. Click here to see how you can help.