Mum battles to keep son alive
A desperate Nelson mother says she is doing all she can to keep alive her terminally ill son, who lives in Australia.
Joy Chambers and her partner Willie Neal re-mortgaged their home four years ago to try to pay as many of Bevan Julian's bills as they can.
In 2001 Chambers sent former Waimea College student Julian off to Australia when he was 30. She envisaged it as the beginnings of an overseas adventure.
"I felt it was time he moved on and started enjoying his life. I paid for his fare to go over to Australia."
Julian arrived in Australia only weeks after the introduction of special category visas for Kiwis by the Australian government, where he would be allowed to live and work indefinitely in Australia and be eligible for Medicare (state-funded medical treatment).
However, he would not be eligible for the sickness or unemployment benefit, something that could now save his mother from extreme financial strife.
In 2007, by then a father of three young children, Julian was diagnosed with an extremely rare and painful autoimmune disease.
His body is rejecting his organs and there is no cure for it. He cannot have transplants or blood transfusions.
He was driving trucks long-haul, but has been told by his doctor and specialist to stop work.
Chambers said his son would sometimes lie about his health so he could continue to work.
"He has collapsed on highways. They have had to get flying doctors to get him to hospital. He just keeps going."
Because there was no financial assistance for him, Chambers is paying her son's rent and bills.
"Whatever needs to be done we will do it. It's a hard slog and you just do it."
Chambers said it was "very frustrating" that her son could not access a benefit in Australia.
"The more he works the sicker he becomes because of the stress."
Julian has separated from the children's mother, but would see the children on weekends and at school holidays.
Chambers went to see her son last Christmas. Before that, it had been 10 years since she had last seen him.
"We can't afford it. The $5000 it costs us to go over there would keep him alive for another month."
She said they are always asked why Julian does not return to live in New Zealand, to which she always answers: "If this happened to someone here they would send them to his specialists there."
And, if he came back to New Zealand, he would never get to see his children.
Chambers felt the situation was "inhumane". She wanted New Zealanders who went to Australia to be aware that they would not get financial help if they fell ill.
Her partner works seven day weeks and Chambers would do as much fundraising as she could. She also had support from friends who would fundraise by putting on scrapbooking classes and raffle off scrapbooking creations.
She said her son was a shell of the "outgoing, and bubbly" person he once was.
He was in constant pain and on "horrendous" medication.
She had other friends and supporters take on his cause and set up a givealittle page, to ease the financial burdon of support on Chambers and Neal.
- The Bevan Fund is at givealittle.co.nz/cause/bevanfund.
- The Nelson Mail