An international student is on life support and his overseas mother has been granted permission by the federal government to come see her son after being previously denied.
Kenyan Lilian Ndiego applied for a single-entry temporary resident visa to travel to Winnipeg to see her 25-year-old son, Tevin Obiga, who is in intensive care at St. Boniface Hospital, and her second application was approved Monday.
“I’m excited and I’m very grateful,” Ndiego said Monday morning on news radio.
“I can’t wait to go see my son and give him moral support.”
Since receiving the good news, Ndiego has taken a COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction test in Nairobi, and as long as the result is negative, she plans to leave Kenya on Tuesday evening.
“Maybe someone somewhere didn’t know the gravity of the situation – until now, maybe,” said George Obiga, Ndiego’s brother.
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A statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada on Monday evening confirmed that Ndiego’s visa had been approved after “additional information” was provided in the second application.
She had previously applied for the visa, but the Canadian High Commission in Kenya refused it on February 15.
His request was denied despite the Kenyan High Commission in Ottawa pleading with its Kenyan counterpart to allow Ndiego to come to Canada in a letter dated February 4.
In an earlier interview on Friday, Ndiego said she expected Canada to approve her request so she could come see her son, who has been diagnosed with blastomycosis, a fungal infection that affects the lungs.
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“I was disappointed because what they wrote was telling me that most Kenyans who go to Canada don’t come back,” said Ndiego, who admitted to having had so many sleepless nights in the past five weeks.
Tevin was in his fourth year of studying computer engineering at the University of Manitoba when he fell ill and was admitted to hospital on January 13. Doctors performed a medical procedure on him two days later, but he never woke up.
On January 19, he had to be transferred to the intensive care unit where he remains connected to several devices, including a lung bypass.
George wanted to support his nephew, so he flew to Winnipeg to see him before returning to Nairobi just over two weeks ago.
George was struck with emotion when he saw Tevin in intensive care – helpless, breathing through tubes.
“It’s a very difficult situation because when I got to the hospital I cried,” George said on Friday.
“Last summer he was playing for the Kenya team [at the African Nations Cup soccer tournament] …and suddenly when I go to see him, he’s in this hospital bed in intensive care with pipes everywhere, equipment and the life support machine.”
The nine-hour jet lag has also been difficult for the family.
George, who noted that it had been “emotionally difficult, physically tiring”, says doctors call Kenya in the middle of the night to try to explain things to them. He admits it’s hard to understand what they’re saying without being there to hear the explanation.
Dr Owen Mooney is Tevin’s doctor, and he has written three letters, the last of which was written on Thursday, pleading for Ndiego to be allowed to cross to Canada to be with his son as “his condition is rapidly deteriorating”.
Mooney said Tevin was on the maximum amount of life support a patient can receive.
Winnipeg South MP Terry Duguid also wrote his own letter to the Canadian High Commission in Kenya on February 4.
In the letter, the Liberal MP said Ndiego’s main reason for visiting Winnipeg was to be with her son. Duguid also touted Ndiego’s 20-year career in social work as having “a strong tendency to return to her duties and to her children, after her time in Canada.”
In its letter, the Kenyan High Commission in Ottawa wrote that Tevin is “at high risk of imminent death” but there is still a chance, albeit slim, that he will survive, George says doctors told him.
And that’s why George pushed so hard for his sister to travel to Canada to see his son, perhaps for the last time.
George said on Monday the family had received an update on Tevin’s condition and that “he was improving slightly,” but nothing major.
Doctors also performed a procedure on Tevin on Saturday, George added.
Ndiego is expected to arrive in Winnipeg later this week and she has one thing on her mind.
“All I think is my son is going to be released from intensive care,” she said. “He’s going to be on his feet.”