Honduran Doctor Seeks Refuge In Oklahoma

Wednesday, January 11th 2012, 9:28 pm
By: News 9

Two gunmen attempted to kidnap and kill Dr. Reniery Espana in his home country of Honduras this summer.

"They put a gun in my face," he said.

The attack outside a Honduran university put him into hiding for two weeks unable to get medical treatment.

Espana said that when he had nowhere else to turn, a group of Oklahomans stepped up to bring him to safety.

With a bullet still lodged in his leg, Espana made the trip from Honduras to Oklahoma.

The doctor arrived in the U.S. for treatment and now it is too dangerous for him to go back. 

He explains that masked men with guns tried to kidnap him from the university where he teaches.  Espana says after struggling for 10 minutes, his medical students helped him get away. Still, the men fired 10 bullets at the doctor hitting him in the leg.

Honduran Police told Espana he is one of four professors targeted by the masked men who kidnap, ask for a ransom, then kill professors.    

"We couldn't just leave him there," Marilee Hattendorf said.  She and her church family at Southern Hills Christian Church in Edmond learned of the attack one week before their annual mission trip to work with Dr. Espana.  

Hattendorf said the Bohn family began coordinating with the American embassy to bring Espana to Oklahoma. 

"We just made a friendship over the years with the people and he is our family."

The church brought the doctor to Oklahoma for medical treatment. Surgeons at Mercy Hospital removed the bullet from Espana's leg for free.

Now, Espana is  volunteering at medical clinics in the community. He is also leading a pilot nutrition program for the Latino Community Development Agency.   

Espana's visa requires him to work with a non-profit organization. Now, Dr.  Espana must raise $40,000 for the program to exist. If not, he will be forced to return to Honduras.

Hattendorf and the church family have already donated $10,000  to the program.

"I mean his life really is in serious danger if he goes back, and we love him."

Espana said knowing his life could end if he returns to Honduras, he is embracing a new beginning in Oklahoma.

"People of Oklahoma are very friendly, very friendly," he said.  

If you would like to help Dr. Espana and the Latino Community Development Agency you can contact Southern Hills Christian Church at 341-0776.