Doctor writes to U.S. embassy, urging visa for Afghan mother in N.L. with ailing child

A high-ranking doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital has written a letter to the American embassy in Halifax, urging an expedited visa for an Afghan woman whose son needs cancer treatment in Boston.

Sajia Yaqobi is facing the grim prospect of saying goodbye to her 15-month-old son for two months, as he leaves home in St. John’s and heads to the United States for a rare form of therapy next month.

Her son, Elias Faqiri, has brain cancer, but should survive with the help of proton radiation — a treatment not offered in Canada.

“We, his treatment team, write this letter hoping to explain the desperate situation in the hopes that you would consider expediting the approval of Mrs. Yaqobi’s travel visa so she may join her son during this very trying time,” wrote Dr. Torunn Yock, a radiation oncologist and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, and nurse practitioner Brooke Patteson.

Working with MP’s office

Elias was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma just 10 months after he was born. He’s undergone several rounds of chemotherapy at the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John’s.

Yaqobi is a permanent resident of Canada, but not a citizen, meaning she needs a visitor’s visa to go to the United States.

In her five years in Canada, Yaqobi has given birth to two children and spent most of the last five months in hospital with Elias. She hasn’t been able to reach the level of English proficiency needed to pass a citizenship test.

At 10 months old, Elias Faqiri was diagnosed with brain cancer. An operation removed most of the tumour inside his skull, but he needs proton radiation to continue treatment. (Submitted)

The family is working with their local Member of Parliament, Nick Whalen, and his staff to navigate the process of getting a visitor’s visa in a short timeframe.

The process usually takes several months.

In the letter, Yock and Patteson said the mother’s presence is required to ensure the baby gets appropriate care.

The first treatment is May 6, and it will continue for about two months.

First trip already complete

Elias made his first trip to Boston last week, along with his father, aunt and uncle, for some preliminary tests.

In order to make it through the full two months of intensive treatment, the medical team believes it’s necessary Yaqobi make the trip.

“[He] will require her care due to his young age and the side effects of the treatment,” the letter reads.

The family is expected to meet with Whalen’s office on Monday, in hopes of travelling to the American embassy in Halifax in the coming days to meet with officials there.

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