Sick Cale­do­nia boy in new bid to leave Cuba

Cole, 7, has be­come ill again af­ter surgery: Will he be well enough to fly home Fri­day night?

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - JOANNA FRKETICH jfr­ketich@thes­ 905-526-3349 | @Jfr­ketich

A Cale­do­nia mom and her ill sev­enyear-old son are go­ing to make a sec­ond at­tempt Fri­day night to re­turn home from Cuba.

Nicole An­tinello says her son Cole was rushed by am­bu­lance to a hos­pi­tal in Hol­guin July 21 af­ter the fam­ily was re­moved from their flight home be­cause he was too sick to fly.

She says Cole, a Grade 2 Cale­do­nia Cen­ten­nial Pub­lic School stu­dent, was well dur­ing their week­long va­ca­tion but be­came nau­seous with a fever at the air­port.

“I would not be able to live with my­self if some­thing hap­pened to my boy in the air,” she said.

Doc­tors made no di­ag­no­sis for the first 24 hours, says An­tinello. But then one sud­denly de­ter­mined Cole needed emer­gency surgery to re­move his ap­pen­dix.

An­tinello wasn’t con­vinced her son had ap­pen­dici­tis but lan­guage bar­ri­ers made com­mu­ni­ca­tion dif­fi­cult. She says Cana­dian health pro­fes­sion­als work­ing for her travel med­i­cal in­sur­ance ad­vised her to lis­ten to the Cuban doc­tors.

“I felt like I re­ally did not have a choice,” she said. “They said it needed to come out.” Cole was in hos­pi­tal for five days.

“I re­al­ize how lucky I am to be Cana­dian and how lucky us Cana­di­ans are to have the health care that we do,” An­tinello said.

“We stayed in a war zone of a hos­pi­tal. Toi­lets were over­flow­ing, flood­ing our room. Other toi­lets would not flush. The shower wouldn’t turn off. (There was) con­struc­tion out­side our room with dust fly­ing ev­ery­where.”

The fam­ily con­tacted the Cana­dian em­bassy, but An­tinello says there wasn’t much of­fi­cials could do.

“Our thoughts are with the fam­ily and friends of the Cana­dian ci­ti­zen who was re­quired to un­dergo a med­i­cal pro­ce­dure in Hol­guin, Cuba,” said Bri­anne Maxwell, spokesper­son for Global Af­fairs Canada.

An­tinello’s 16-year-old daugh­ter, Kayla Rip­son, and 76-year-old mom, Sheila Rip­son, re­turned to Canada Wed­nes­day.

“It was very hard to watch them leave,” An­tinello said.

She had to wait for doc­tors to clear Cole to fly as well as travel in­sur­ance to ar­range pay­ment to the hos­pi­tal.

They’re ex­pected to ar­rive in Toronto at 2:15 a.m. Satur­day. But Cole has be­come ill again, so she’s con­cerned about whether he can fly.

“He is un­able to keep any­thing down,” she said. “I am a lit­tle wor­ried but I have faith that God is with us and is pro­tect­ing us.”

She plans to take Cole di­rectly to Toronto’s Hos­pi­tal for Sick Chil­dren once they land.

A GoFundMe cam­paign has raised more than $2,700 to cover ex­penses.

“I am over­whelmed by the sup­port we have re­ceived from friends and com­plete strangers,” she said. “What we mainly need is prayers to get home.” She says the fam­ily rarely trav­els. “It has been an eye-opener,” An­tinello says. But Cole “loves Cuba and made so many friends he will never for­get.”


Cole, 7, was in a Cuban hos­pi­tal for five days af­ter surgery.

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