CHIANG MAI – The family of a retired Canadian firefighter hasÂ launched a crowdfunding campaignÂ to bring him home from Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he is currently in a coma after contracting a rare blood virus.
During a vacation to Chiang Mai, the retired firefighter Bill Hughes was struck with a mosquito-borne illness called Japanese Encephalitis, a virus thatÂ â€”Â though most often prevented by vaccination â€” can result in inflammation of the brain for a small percentage of those infected.
Symptoms can range from headaches to high fever, disorientation, tremors, convulsions and coma.
In January, Hughes went into hospital in Chiang Mai and soon after went into a coma. His daughter Jillian has been by his side since then, Martin said.
The family created website atÂ bringbillhome.ca, as well as aÂ Go Fund Me page called â€œBring Bill Homeâ€ in hopes of raising the $200,000 they were told it would cost to transport him home with Angel Flight, an Alberta-based organization that specializes in providing air travel for rural Albertans who need medical services.
â€œA note to thank all who have donated to date, to help evac my son (and) my granddaughter home safely is greatly appreciated,â€ reads a message on the site from Hughesâ€™ mother Heather.
But Martin hopes he and his fellow firefighters can do more than just help with the costs.
â€œItâ€™s a pretty powerful brotherhood,â€ he said, adding local crews have connected with provincial and federal groups to get the word out and are even working to get the International Association of Firefighters on board as well.
â€œThrough our contacts as firefighters and medics, weâ€™re trying to find other avenues for the Hughes family to make it more affordable,â€ he said.
So far, some have come forward offering their expertise and services to bring him home, potentially bringing down the cost. But a successful medical evacuation also depends on timing.
â€œIf heâ€™s not stable, they wonâ€™t package and send him. So itâ€™s the waiting game and weâ€™re kind of hoping and praying,â€ Martin said.
The online donations have topped $21,000 after just five days and Martin says silent auctions are being planned to increase that total.
He said Hughesâ€™ propensity for running, biking and all-around adventure could help turn hope into reality.
â€œWeâ€™re just hoping with that kind of shape thatâ€™s heâ€™s always been in itâ€™s on the positive side,â€ he said.