BY DANIEL CHANG
A 27-year-old Haitian-born woman dying of cancer in a Broward state prison will be released to a Miami hospice.
Her family wants to take her home to Indiana.
The Florida Parole Commission has ordered the conditional release of Betsie Gallardo, a Broward state prison inmate who was born HIV-positive and is dying of multiple organ cancer.
The panel voted 2-1 Wednesday morning in Tallahassee to release Gallardo, 27, to a Miami hospice, said Tammy Salmon, a spokeswoman for the parole commission.
Gallardo’s mother, Jessica Bussert, wants to take her daughter home to Indiana to “die with dignity,” Bussert wrote in an e-mail to the Herald.
But Gallardo will remain in South Florida until the Indiana Department of Corrections agrees to accept her transfer into that state, Salmon said.
Gallardo is serving a five-year sentence at Broward Correctional Institution for biting and kicking a Collier County sheriff’s deputy in 2008.
Four months after beginning her prison sentence, Gallardo was diagnosed with stage four cancer of the gall bladder in April. Bussert said the cancer has spread to Gallardo’s liver, lungs and ovaries and that doctors have diagnosed her as incurable.
Despite the dire diagnosis, the Florida Parole Commission declined Gallardo’s request for a conditional medical release in October.
The commission reconsidered Gallardo’s request because her cancer has worsened since October. She was recently diagnosed with an inoperable bowel blockage and can no longer hold down food, Bussert said.
Florida Department of Corrections officials have declined to address Gallardo’s health or the care she has received in the prison infirmary, because of privacy laws.
But Bussert has accused prison doctors of refusing her daughter care, and behaving as though she were a lost cause.
About a week after Gallardo was transferred to the Kendall Medical Center in Miami on Dec. 30, Bussert said her daughter had gained 10 pounds.
In an e-mail to the Herald early Wednesday, Bussert wrote that “the prison doctor refused to provide my daughter with life sustaining IV nutrition even though Betsie was walking, talking, laughing, and praying. The prison doctor just gave up on Betsie and I don’t believe that she can receive the treatment she is constitutionally guaranteed while still a prisoner in Florida.”
Born HIV positive and rased as an orphan in Cité Soleil, an impoverished and populous neighborhood of the Haitian capital, Gallardo and her younger sister, Germaine, were sickly and near death when an American couple on a missionary trip from Indiana met them in 1993.
Joshua and Sharon Bussert adopted the girls, and took them home to Lafayette, Ind., raising them along with their own biological children and several other adopted children. Years later, Joshua had a sex-change operation and is now Jessica.
Despite her difficult early years, with three meals a day and access to HIV-inhibiting drugs that can be hard to find in Haiti, Gallardo blossomed into a 5-foot 2-inch, 116-pound ballet dancer who graduated from high school with her peers, Jessica Bussert said.
After high school, Gallardo left for South Florida to be nearer to a half-brother in Naples and a Haitian community where she hoped to belong.
The criminal charges came in August 2008 when Gallardo was arrested in Naples on a charge of child neglect.
She had left her boyfriend’s child home alone for more than 30 minutes and driven his car into a ditch after taking Xanax, a prescription drug for anxiety.
According to the police report, Gallardo was taken to the Naples Jail where she bit one deputy on the forearm and wrist and kicked another in the knee as they tried to restrain her.
The child neglect charges were later dropped, but Gallardo was convicted of battery on a law enforcement officer, and resisting arrest with violence. She was sentenced to five years in prison.