An Auckland family say they are facing medical bills of $6300 per day to keep their grandmother alive after she suffered a heart attack while visiting from Fiji without travel insurance.
Vijay Kumari, 58, arrived from Fiji on November 19 to help her son Ashik Chand and his wife Sandy Naidu with their four children, including a newborn, while the pair returned to work and study.
But Kumari had a massive heart attack within four hours of her arrival and was rushed to North Shore Hospital.
She has been on life support ever since at a cost of $6300 a day because she did not have travel insurance.
The bill for her medical care so far exceeds $85,000.
The Immigration New Zealand website says non-residents on a visitors' visa do not have access to public health care and ACC does not cover heart-related illnesses.
"The doctor said her three major arteries were blocked - she has never smoked and she doesn't drink so I don't know how this could happen," Naidu said.
Kumari has diabetes which is managed effectively and had no history of any heart condition.
"A day before she arrived she felt a bit short of breath so she went to the hospital in Fiji but the doctors said she was fine and well enough to fly," she said.
"The doctors here were shocked and said she suffered a mild heart attack in Fiji - if only we'd known that she wouldn't have gone on the flight."
Naidu is the facility manager at West Harbour Lodge where she cares for the elderly.
Her husband is studying to be a lawyer and works as a prison officer. He has managed to pick up more shifts.
They have remortgaged their house to pay for medical costs in a bid to keep Kumari alive.
"I haven't taken a holiday in the 10 years I have been in New Zealand and I'm now going to sell my car," Naidu said.
"I can't send her back to Fiji because she won't last a day there. They only have one life-support machine and she won't recover."
The family has been trying its best to remain positive.
"I don't have the heart to say 'turn the life support off' because the doctors keep telling us there is steady and slow progress.
"The whole of my life I will be thinking 'what if', if I do turn off the life support just because of the money. How could I live with myself?
"She's supported me so much throughout my life. But she has gone through hell with the death of her husband four years ago and she struggled to get through that," Naidu said.
The family has feared Kumari will be fast-tracked home if they cannot front up with the money.
"We just really need help so we can look after her here if she recovers."
Waitemata District Health Board spokesman Paul Patton said it was important to make sure people were prepared and safe to travel.
"We positively encourage those who have relatives coming from overseas to organise and buy the appropriate travel insurance," he said.
Sandy Naidu has opened an account to fundraise for her mother-in-law: ASB 12 3232 0028014 50.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should fluoride in water be the responsibility of central government?