As if 2020 could get any worse. Well, for our family, it has.
I have lived in Nelson for almost 23 years and some of you reading this know my parents well as frequent visitors to our beautiful town.
My mom, Angela Hunter, was recently diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer called plasma cell leukemia. Mom’s diagnosis was complicated by the fact that she and dad have been living on their 38-foot sailboat, TAO 8, for the last 22 years, following their dream of sailing around the world and exploring as many cultures as possible. They were on the last leg of their journey and were only a few months away from their goal of circumnavigating the globe.
Another complication, COVID-19, threw even more wrenches into the works and they became stranded on a very remote, very small island of 4,000 people called St. Helena, which is literally in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
When mom started experiencing symptoms of breathlessness, an elevated heart rate and loss of appetite and weight they went to the local hospital for tests and the blood work came back positive for leukemia.
Mom was admitted to hospital right away and given two back-to-back blood transfusions. A bone marrow biopsy was also needed and had to be sent to the Cape Town Hospital for analysis on the only supply ship that made a round trip from South Africa once per month. Orchestrating a medevac from that remote island, with lockdowns all over the world due to the pandemic, was no easy feat and seemed virtually impossible at times. Communication on that tiny rock of an island was not great, and the internet often went out for days at a time.
Unfortunately, the insurance company would only cover the cost of getting her to hospital in South Africa as it was the closest and cheapest at CAD $74,784, and refused to heed the hematologist’s opinion that they would not be able to supply the treatments she needed.
A medevac to Canada was $201,237. The difference for the medevac, $126,000, had to be paid up front, or the plane would not be sent. We don’t yet have the hospital bill from St. Helena, but we are estimating it around $25,000 to $35,000.
Finally, to our extreme relief, things were arranged and they landed in Toronto on June 28 where they were met by an ambulance and taken directly to the Oakville Trafalgar Hospital where an oncologist was already assigned to her.
My folks are some of the most inspiring people I have ever known. In the last 22 years they have sailed more than 75,000 nautical miles and visited 62 countries! There’s no way to even touch upon a fraction of their adventures and accomplishments without writing a novel.
They raised my sister and me to follow our hearts and live life to the fullest. They led by the most ultimate example. They are selfless and courageous and would probably never ask for help. My mom is the kind of person who would probably rather refuse treatment than put her family in debt, but you can bet they would give you the shirt off their back or their last morsel of food in a heartbeat if you needed it.
If you’re able to donate or even just share their story, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
To make a donation to the Hunter family, go to https://tinyurl.com/yyvq45ve.