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Ont. man facing thousands in medical bills after mother falls ill on trip from Nigeria

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A University of Waterloo employee is fighting to save his mother’s life.

Tony Nwokoro is an optometrist from Nigeria. He became a permanent resident of Canada two years ago and is now working as an optometric technician at the University of Waterloo as part of the process to qualify as an optometrist in Ontario.

When he and his wife Justina welcomed a new baby six months ago, his mother Barbara made plans to come visit them from Nigeria.

“My mom actually came around to meet my son for the first time,” Tony explains.

But soon after arriving in late September, Barbara suddenly fell ill. She was rushed to hospital where she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

Barbara, 63, is now in a medically induced coma at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener.

“My greatest fear is losing my mom,” Tony says.

Barbara has been receiving aggressive chemotherapy treatments and her travel insurance quickly ran out.

Because she’s not a Canadian resident, the bills are piling up.

“A round takes about $11,000, which I'm paying out of pocket,” Tony says.

That doesn’t include the costs associated with staying in the ICU and blood transfusions.

Tony and Justina Nwokoro pose with their newborn child. (Submitted)

The hope is to get Barbara to a point where she can be taken back to Nigeria – or the United States – to get the bone marrow transplant needed to save her life.

The University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science where Tony works has launched fundraising efforts to help pay for his mother’s medical bills.

“He still has a smile on his face and keeps going,” Tony’s colleague Melinda Szilva says. “In spite of the fact that he has a six-month old at home who keeps him up at night and a lot of worries about losing his mom.”

When asked how he manages to keep up his positive attitude, Tony only has one answer – his mom.

“It’s especially for her,” he says.

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