Afghan Mother Gets Government OK To Travel with Baby for Cancer Treatment

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Thursday May 2, 2019
Kabul (BNA) Sajia Yaqobi has had a weight lifted off her shoulders, as her baby son fights brain cancer.
She now knows she will be by his side when he goes through radiation in the United States next month.
One month after CBC News shared her story of her struggles with bureaucracy, Yaqobi has been granted a U.S. visitor's visa to travel with her now 16-month-old son, Elias, to Boston for an innovative form of radiation not available in Canada.
Yaqobi, originally from Afghanistan, travelled from her home in St. John's to Halifax on Thursday. There, she was interviewed at the U.S. consulate and had her visa printed on site.
"My best wishes, you know, [to] all the people," she said through her husband, Assadullah Faqiri.
"If I was inside my country I wouldn't get that kind of treatment or hospitality. That's the best kind."
Help from local MP
Yaqobi faced a parent's nightmare when she found out Elias needed immediate treatment only available south of the border, and might have to go without her.
As a permanent resident of Canada, she is not able to get a passport, and the process for a visa typically takes more than six months.
Complicating things even further was her expired Afghan passport, which needed to be renewed for the visa application.
Instead, the Canadian government rushed a travel document for her, which serves as a replacement to the passport, and saves considerable time.
After CBC News aired the story, the family got in touch with its local member of Parliament, Nick Whalen. His staff — in particular, Helena Vokey — took charge on the issue.
With one phone call on the day they met, Vokey secured a travel document for Yaqobi. Whalen's office also arranged the interview at the consulate, which would have otherwise have been scheduled for the summer.
"The next available normal opportunity to go for them was in July," said Whalen. "But because we briefed [the consulate], they were able to go and get the visa in the same day."
Whalen said about a third of the work done at his constituency office is immigration related.
'I am thankful'
The family offered its sincere thanks to Whalen, Vokey and the people of St. John's. Whalen said his office has fielded plenty of calls from people wondering how they can help.
Faqiri, a taxi driver in St. John's, said he's had customers recognize him from the news and offer him huge tips. A Toronto woman he picked up at the airport had seen him on CBC News Network and gave him $100 when he dropped her off.
"God bless her," he said.
"What a great people. I am thankful for all the people here. Even my boss, my colleagues, they support me so much."
Elias starts proton radiation therapy May 8. It's expected to last six weeks.
He's been in and out of hospital for the past month, suffering from fevers and nausea related to his brain tumour. As of Sunday evening, Elias was at home with his parents and brother.

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