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Indian international student's father gets travel exemption for Australia to tend to injured son

Gursharan Singh (Left) travelled from India to care for his injured son Manjot Singh Cheema. Source: Supplied by Gursharan Singh

The Australian Border Force granted permission on compassionate grounds to Gursharan Singh of India, whose son is under treatment for critical injuries in Adelaide. Determined to spare no resource to nurse his son, the father is now beginning to feel the heat of paying for his treatment in dollars.

Gursharan Singh had never thought that he would make his first trip to Australia under dire circumstances to care for his son.

His son, Manjot Singh Cheema, sustained critical spinal injuries while swimming at a hotel's pool in Adelaide, where he was spending Christmas holidays with friends last year.


Highlights:


The 47-year-old said that his son’s legs lost sensation after he injured his head while diving into the pool on 26 December 2020. The 20-year-old has since been shifted from a hospital's critical care unit to a rehabilitation centre in Adelaide.

“Manjot is a student from Melbourne. On December 25, he had travelled to Adelaide with of friends for his Christmas vacation. They were enjoying themselves in a swimming pool when he dived and hit his head, sustaining neck and spinal injuries," Mr Singh tells SBS Punjabi.

Manjot Singh Cheema is a Melbourne-based Indian international student. He hails from Ludhiana, Punjab.
A Christmas fun trip turned into a disaster for Manjot Singh Cheema when he got critically injured while diving into a swimming pool in Adelaide.
Supplied by Mr Singh

Welled up with emotion, Mr Singh recalled the evening when he received a distress call from one of Manjot's friends, who informed him that he had been rushed to hospital.

The father of two, who lives with his wife and younger son in Ludhiana, Punjab, said that moment brought their life to a standstill.

“When I got a call from an Australian number on December 26, it was evening in India. Instinctively, I knew this late evening call from Australia was not normal.

“It was Manjot’s friend, who told me he was undergoing a scan. In the next call, he updated me that Manjot had been shifted to an intensive care unit. All I wanted to do was to fly to my son and ensure he was getting the best treatment. but the borders were closed, which further aggravated our woes,” he recalls.

Mr Singh said he was guided by Manjot's friends to apply for an inward travel exemption from the Australian Border Force – the only way he could have entered amidst a coronavirus-induced border ban.

"I got exemption on compassionate grounds with the support of local MPs in Adelaide, who were instrumental in enabling me to fly to Sydney last month, where I completed my quarantine, after which I arrived in Adelaide," he says.

Clutching on to the phone that Manjot had gifted him from his hard-earned salary, Mr Singh says he had sent his son to Australia in 2019 with "high hopes and aspirations."

"He was doing well and was on the right path until this tragedy occurred and changed the course of our lives," he adds.

"He is getting good treatment, but his recovery has been prolonged. He still cannot feel any sensation in his legs which remains of paramount concern for us and the doctors,” Mr Singh says.

Mr Singh, who has so far relied on his son's friends and distant relatives in Australia for emotional support at this challenging time, is now struggling to pay for his son's treatment in Australia.

But he is determined to provide him with the best.

"I took a loan to fund his education in Australia. He was pursuing accounting initially but later switched to carpentry because it was relatively less expensive. He was working very hard before the accident to supplement his income and save money to repay the loan.

"He is getting the best treatment in Australia, but we are struggling to keep up with the finances,” Mr Singh appeals.

Manjot Singh Cheema
Manjot Singh Cheema, sustained critical spinal cord injuries while swimming at a hotel's pool in Adelaide.
Supplied by Mr Singh

Mr Singh's relative, Gagandeep Singh, who took care of Manjot in his initial days in the hospital in Adelaide, also appeals to the community to pray and band together for his well-being.

"We all came here as migrants for the sake of a better future. But life, as we know, is full of uncertainties, and sometimes, tragedies. I had never met Manjot before the accident, but now I feel connected to him and sincerely wish for him to recover and return home," he says.

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