By JORDYN GRZELEWSKI
Dawn Borosko last spoke to her brother March 13. He was in China and was desperate to leave.
He was headed to the airport that same day to catch a flight home that his family had arranged for him. But he never made it to the airport.
Some type of accident befell John Berisford, 36, of West Virginia, the day he was set to leave China. He has been in a coma in a hospital in Yangzhou ever since.
For the past five months, his sister has been trying to raise the nearly $100,000 needed to pay his hospital bills and for an air ambulance to bring him back to the United States.
“I’m begging now, for people to help me get him home,” said Borosko, 40, of Youngstown. “I just wish somebody would step up and say, ‘Hey we’ll help you’.”
Berisford moved to China in December 2013 to work as an English language teacher at the Web International English Training Center in Yangzhou. Borosko said her brother previously taught in South Korea for 11 years before getting a job offer in China. Before working abroad, Berisford lived in Moundsville, W.Va., and attended West Virginia University.
“He loved to teach people. That was his passion,” she recalled. “He was doing great. He loved what he did.”
She described her brother as outgoing, a “people person” and very intelligent. “He was just lovable. He was never in a bad mood. He was always willing to help somebody. He had never seen a stranger.”
Borosko has had fundraisers such as spaghetti dinners and jewelry sales, gradually chipping away at the $100,000 — $64,000 to pay for an air ambulance and $35,000 to pay for a hospital bill that grows by the day. To date, she has raised a little more than $26,000.
Borokso said the best way to donate is through her
GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/8l2igs. Donations can also be made to the “Bring John Home” account at Bayer Heritage Federal Credit Union in West Virginia. For more information about fundraisers, including the “Everyone Give A Dollar” campaign that is ongoing, go to the “Bring John Home” page on Facebook.
She has reached out to many government officials and has been communicating with the offices of U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and West Virginia Senate President and Lt. Gov. Jeffrey Kessler. “I even sent the president of the United States a note, asking for help,” she said.
“This office has worked to help open communication between [Dawn] and Sen. Rockefeller’s and Sen. [Joe] Manchin’s office, and has worked a lot with Sen. Rockefeller’s office to expedite the return of Mr. Berisford to the United States,” said Steve McElroy, senior assistant to Kessler. “We hope and pray that it comes to a conclusion that is beneficial to all, and John is brought back to the state of West Virginia.
“Kessler will do whatever he can to make sure that happens. This being a federal issue, he has worked with federal elected officials to try and obtain Mr. Berisford’s return.”
Borosko, however, said she is not satisfied with the response of government officials.
“It’s been five months now. And I just wish the government would do a little more to help me get him home. Especially with the plane, the transportation,” she said. “If they wanted to get him out of there, they would have.”
Asked to confirm aspects of Berisford’s circumstances in China, a State Department official declined to comment, citing privacy considerations.
Borosko said what bothers her most are the circumstances surrounding her brother’s accident, which are still unclear to her.
“I can’t really get exactly what happened,” she said. “It was weird how it all transpired.”
“I think that’s why it bothers me so bad, is I talked to him that day and he said, ‘I just want to come home.’ So I called my brother, my other one, who’s overseas, and he said: ‘I’ll get him a ticket. Tell him to go to the airport.’ And he never showed,” she said. She added that she finds it suspicious that Berisford’s money was missing from his apartment after the accident.
Borosko has had a lot of trouble getting information from police officials in China, and from doctors at the hospital where Berisford is staying.
“We all seem to believe there’s more to the story than what’s being said,” she said.
Borosko said the situation is made all the more difficult because her other brother, who is in the military, is currently in Afghanistan, and their mother is in extremely poor health.
Borosko said she receives updates about every two weeks from the American consulate in Shanghai, and that reports indicate her brother’s condition is improving slightly.
“Now he’s opening his eyes. When you walk in, and you touch him, he opens his eyes. If you make any type of noise, he opens his eyes. Which is all progress,” she said.
It will still be a long road to bring him home, however.