Sunday Star-Times

Family’s last hope lies in miracle

South African family have accepted their fate, yet are banking on miracle. Jacques Steenkamp reports.

- January 21, 2018

An expat South African family’s offer to pay for their teenage son’s medical costs to be able to remain in New Zealand has fallen on death ears.

Ethan von Metzinger, 15, was born with a kidney condition and after living in Dunedin for nine years, is being forced to return to his country of birth where he’d be a stranger and most likely receive substandar­d medical treatment.

Ethan’s father Steve said they had been given until the 28th of January to leave New Zealand or face deportatio­n after their appeal to remain in the country was declined.

Steve has resigned from his job, the family house has been sold, all their belonging have been moved into storage, and their golden retriever has been rehomed to a family in Timaru. And for the next week, the family will be living in a motel.

Immigratio­n NZ area manager Marcelle Foley confirmed that Steve was declined a resident visa in February 2014 ‘‘for failing to declare in his visa applicatio­n that his son, Ethan, had a chronic kidney disease that is highly likely to require future surgery and treatment’’.

But Steve is adamant that he does ‘‘in no way expect my problem’’ to be New Zealand’s. He has offered to pay for Ethan’s medical costs.

Steve has also confirmed that Ethan would not take the kidney of any Kiwi waiting on the transplant list as he, his wife Joan and their eldest son Travis have all been tested and can donate their kidneys to Ethan if required. However, the von Metzingers appear to be caught in a Catch-22 situation as according to the Ministry of Health it is not possible to pay for a kidney transplant in New Zealand.

Ministry of Health spokespers­on Dylan Moran said: ‘‘You cannot undertake a privately paid operation in a New Zealand public hospital, and the Ministry is not aware of any private facilities which carry out kidney transplant­s in New Zealand’’.

That’s unless it’s a lifethreat­ening emergency in which case treatment will be provided to an internatio­nal visitor while the costs are later recouped from either their insurance or the individual.

‘‘There is a difference which needs to be pointed out between elective surgery and acute/emergency surgery. A kidney transplant would not be considered an emergency surgery as they require significan­t planning and identifica­tion of a suitable donor organ,’’ said Moran.

Foley confirmed this by adding that the ‘‘ability of a person or organisati­on to pay for health services has no bearing on whether an applicant is unlikely to impose significan­t costs on health services’’.

Steve is frustrated by all the red tape and said: ‘‘Stop dealing with us on paper, sit down face-to-face and see who we are’’. The family initially left South Africa after they became targets of violent criminals. The prospect of returning has therefore been a major cause of concern for especially Joan, who suffers from PTSD.

They have approached Minister of Health David Clark in his role as MP for Dunedin North, but the case has landed on the doorstep of Associate Immigratio­n Minister, Kris Faafoi, who is yet to make a decision.

The family’s last in an online that hope now lies petition on has garnered almost 20,000 signatures to keep the family in New Zealand. Thousands of people have left comments on the petition’s page asking the Government to keep the family in New Zealand.

Among those was Sesli Tahilanu who wrote ‘‘I am signing this because my mother got denied residency for the same reason. She died shortly after returning home’’.

But it’s Ethan’s primary school teacher, Emma Knopp, whose message captured the situation perfectly. ‘‘I taught this beautiful boy. He is a kind and caring (and also well individual). His mother did so much for our school as a volunteer, and they are truly gorgeous ‘givers’. I too fear for what they will face when back in South Africa. His father is able to fund the surgery if required so where is the problem here?

‘‘Please have a heart immigratio­n. Feeling flabbergas­ted that we are trying so hard to teach kids compassion and our leaders do this.’’

 ??  ?? The von Metzinger family, of Dunedin, are about to be deported.
The von Metzinger family, of Dunedin, are about to be deported.

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