ATLANTA — The last picture Stephen Johnson and Tori Austin have of themselves on a dream vacation is one of them smiling is from the plane.
"We have, like, one," Johnson said. "To be honest, as soon as I was on the ship, I was not feeling well."
The Atlanta couple was set to adventure on a cruise, but it quickly turned into a nightmare. Johnson became gravely ill and went into diabetic shock, requiring him to be flown to a private hospital in Progresso, Mexico.
But, after experiencing the medical emergency, the hospital wouldn't let them leave until the couple paid.
"They brought him the bill and they said, you don't pay, you don't leave. And that was hours before he was set to get on that ship," Austin said.
They couldn't afford the $16,000 bill, and couple said the hospital confiscated their passports. They even said things got physical when they tried to leave.
"That's when I went to the police to file a report because she assaulted him," Austin said, adding that she walked six miles in flip flops to do so. "Because, at the end of the day, he's still human. And you don’t need to put your hands on him."
The hospital told NBC News it's standard policy for private hospitals to collect payment at the time of service, and it didn't do anything wrong.
"That's when it hit me that these people are really serious. And we didn't know that, in foreign countries, you have to pay," Austin said.
She put their plea on Facebook, where thousands of people reacted to their story.
Now, after being released from the Mexican hospital and traveling home - and being hospitalized again over the Thanksgiving holiday at Northside Hospital - the Atlanta couple is relieved to be home.
Johnson, who just got out of the hospital for the second time, spoke only to 11Alive's Kaitlyn Ross and said he wouldn't be home if it weren't for Austin.
"Without Tori, I would probably still be in Mexico," he said. "I wouldn't have reached out to Facebook!"
But it was one particular viewer for whom he was extra thankful - Tyler Perry. The couple said the Atlanta-based media mogul reached out directly to pay their bill.
"I think I repeated his name about 15 times, I couldn't believe it!" Johnson said.
The entertainment mogul paid the $16,000 bill to get the couple home and covered their airfare. They both said they are so thankful for Perry's generosity and kindness. They're also thankful for each other.
"I had to pull up my bootstraps - be his rock," Austin said. "For so long, he's been mine, now it's time for me to be his."
They both said even after all of this, they would go back to Mexico - but not without international travelers' insurance.
Johnson also added he thinks it's vital to see your doctor for a quick check-up just to make sure everything is OK before traveling.