By: Julia Deng
MIDLAND - Jerry Roberts, 56, has been battling a life-threatening facial tumor for nearly five years.
The cancerous growth began as a pimple-like bump inside his nose, and now covers more than half his face.
Roberts told NewsWest 9 he didn't receive proper medical care until Friday, when he was taken to Midland Memorial Hospital following a suicide attempt, because of inadequate insurance coverage.
"He has insurance," said Lon Ashley, a close friend who calls Roberts a "beloved brother."
"But he doesn't have the right insurance."
Roberts is covered by Medicaid, which allocates $700 a month for medical care; "not nearly enough" for the extensive reconstructive surgery he needs, according to Ashley.
"He needs major surgery," said Ashley. "They need to take the whole [tumorous growth] out first, and then they need to have a team of plastic surgeons reconstruct his face. It's gotten crazy the past six months. One day I was sitting there and all his teeth just started sliding out. Just coming out, everywhere, because the tumor pushed them all out."
The tumor, roughly the size of a softball, extends back into Roberts's mouth and nasal cavities.
He said he had been turned away by multiple doctors and hospitals during the past five years.
"A lot of doctors wouldn't take his Medicaid because it didn't pay them enough," Ashley said, interpreting his friend's mumbling.
Roberts has difficulty breathing, eating and speaking coherently.
"For years, we dealt with so-called 'professionals' who did nothing for him - no biopsies, no real diagnosis, no x-rays - as the tumor grew bigger and bigger," Ashley told NewsWest 9.
Specialists at Midland Memorial offered to treat Roberts free of charge after he was admitted Friday to the hospital.
Ashley called his physicians - one of whom is 86 years old and retired - a "true Godsend."
However, Roberts likely has to travel out of state for the extensive procedures he needs to remove the tumor and reconstruct his face.
"We can't find anybody in Texas who will do it with the Medicaid coverage he has," said Ashley. "There's a small, religious [treatment center] in Arizona that may be able to do it [under Roberts's insurance plan] but right now, we're just waiting. We can't do anything else."
They expect to receive a final answer from the Phoenix-based physicians by Friday.
NewsWest 9 contacted the physician who treated Roberts before he was admitted to Midland Memorial, in addition to specialists who reportedly "turned him away."
None were available for comment.