Stranded in South Korea: Family seeking help to pay for sick brother's hospital bill, bring him home

KOTA KINABALU: A family of rubber tappers from Sabah’s interior Keningau district are asking for public donations to help settle their brother’s hospital bill and to bring him back from South Korea, where he worked as a welder.

With the hospital bill already at around RM90,000 and increasing each day, they are also pleading for help from the government.

Juitah Laimin, 35, said her younger brother Eddy, 27, the eighth of 11 siblings, was diagnosed with pneumonia over a month ago and had been warded at a hospital in South Korea.

“At first, we thought it was just a normal lung infection but after a week, doctors told us that it was more than that and that Eddy had pneumonia,” she said.

Since then, they have been trying to raise funds via social media to help settle his hospital bill, but it kept increasing because Eddy had to be warded for treatment, and the doctors would not discharge him until he was fit to travel by plane.

Juitah said her brother’s case also got the attention of several non-governmental organisations including Solidarity Anak Sabah, which is based in Selangor, to help spread the word.

A pastor in South Korea is also among those trying to help her arrange things and raise funds, she said, adding they received over RM20,000 so far, including RM350 from the Keningau MP's office to pay for some of the outstanding bills.

Eddy, who has been in South Korea for five years, was working as a welder with a legal permit until last April when it expired, while his passport expired in March last year, Juitah said.

He stayed on and did odd jobs as he wanted to save some money before returning to Sabah, she said.

“We are at our wit's end. We are poor, and cannot afford to settle this bill. We have no land or properties to sell to raise funds, and we can only rely on the government and the public for help,” she said.

Despite all these unpaid bills, Juitah’s family is truly thankful that the South Korean hospital is still willing to treat Eddy and try to save his life.

“But we have been reminded to pay the outstanding bills and to also find ways to come up with the money to pay for the subsequent bills because Eddy might need to be hospitalised for at least another month,” she said.

Solidarity Anak Sabah president Sem Kulian said when he was told of this case, he tried to make it a point to get the attention of local leaders and ministers from Sabah.

“We hope this matter would reach the ears of ministers and leaders in this country because this is a Sabahan, a Malaysian and a citizen of this country that needs our help desperately,” he said.

He said the NGO usually deals with bringing back bodies of Sabahans from other states, but this time, decided to also help out because the family involved contacted them.

“Out of pity and empathy, we try to help but we have our own limitations because the sum involved is just too huge for us to handle alone,” said Sem.

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