A Penticton man’s battle with kidney failure could put him in a dire situation at the end of his Canadian working visa in 2019, according to his employer.
Kris Reyes was diagnosed with kidney failure five years ago, three years after he moved to Canada, and when he applied for permanent residency, he was declined due to the cost of his illness on the health care system.
But if he moves back to the Philippines, his boss, Nicole MacMillan of the South Okanagan Tim Hortons, said he cannot afford the costly care in his home country.
“It’s so sad to see. If he goes home, he will die, because in the Philippines it’s going to cost him 10s of thousands of dollars to be able to do what B.C. med can provide,” MacMillan said.
“If he goes home, he’ll only have enough money for about six months, and then once the money’s gone, the money’s gone unfortunately. And he will die if he has to stop that. It sounds so awful, I hate saying that, but that’s kind of what our push is, here.”
Most of Reyes’ family is in Canada at this point, including his wife, but his children are still living with his wife’s mother back in the Philippines, but would be able to come to Canada if Reyes gets permanent residency status.
“His kids are now eight and nine. He’s never even gotten to meet the youngest one, because when he left to come here they didn’t know Jocelyn (his wife) was pregnant with their second,” MacMillan said. “So he’s never met his little baby, and these guys are like family to us.”
Despite the burdensome health care Reyes has undergone, MacMillan said he hasn’t missed a beat at work.
“He’s already done over 15 surgeries, actually, since he’s been here. He still manages to work for me 40 hours all the time,” MacMillan said.
“I always say ‘take time off,’ and he is such a hard worker. He just had a surgery two weeks ago, and he said four days later ‘I can come back,’ because he needs the money, obviously, to work for his medical expense.”
Reyes also does three days of dialysis per week at the hospital, as well as every night while he sleeps at home.
MacMillan said she has been trying to help Reyes reapply for his permanent residency under humanitarian and compassionate considerations from Immigration Canada.
“He’s on the top of the list for a kidney here, but they will not release his name officially onto that list until he becomes PR (permanent resident), so it’s kind of a catch-22,” MacMillan said. “Because he’s been on the waiting list for five years, the doctors and the nurses, we have letters from them that we’ve tried to send all the way up to Justin Trudeau.”
But those letters haven’t garnered a response, MacMillan said, and the cost of lawyers keeps going up for the family, who is going through Mercan Group to fight for PR status.
A representative from Mercan acknowledged Reyes is working with the law firm, and they hope to be putting in their application soon.
According to the representative, the humanitarian and compassionate considerations can only be applied for after permanent residency has already been declined, adding she expects Reyes’ claim to be a large one.
The Mercan employee declined to delve into Reyes’ case, but said the humanitarian and compassionate considerations apply to someone who would be in danger if they left the country.
If Reyes does not gain permanent residency status, MacMillan said his current working visa will run up in 2019, and he will have to return to the Philippines.
Because of the hefty cost of lawyers, MacMillan has set up a GoFundMe campaign for Reyes, with a goal of raising $50,000. So far, that campaign has garnered about $2,000 from 36 people, ranging from $5 donations to a $250 donation.
“This GoFundMe campaign is basically to help Kris and Jocelyn with all their lawyer fees and their medical expenses in the meantime,” she said. “I can’t even send him home for a visit. I tried to look into that, because I’m like ‘just let them see their babies for a few weeks, anything would help.’
“But unfortunately Kris can’t even go home because it will cost me thousands and thousands of dollars to just get him on hemodialysis for those three weeks, and flying would be so long we would need to buy the machine for him to take with him, which was extremely costly.”