CALGARY -- She came to Calgary to await the birth of her grandchild. When COVID shut down the planet, the family made a decision to extend her visa and ride out the pandemic together.

A month later, she developed severe pain and swelling on the left side of her neck.

Two weeks after that, Kokilaben Rao was diagnosed with cancer.

“It might get spread all over the body and it might be too late before we can even treat her,” says her son Divyesh Rao.

While her two sons and their families are all Canadian citizens, Kokilaben is from India. Commercial flights are grounded because of the pandemic, and repatriation flights have extreme wait lists, favour people travelling to Delhi and would leave the rapidly worsening senior alone with no one to care for her at home. She cannot fly alone in her health but her sons are barred from entering India under current restrictions.

Travel insurance denied Kokilaben’s health claim, and each trip to the doctor costs over $900. The hardworking family’s health bill is climbing fast and they are running out of money.

Her family says they understand why foreign nationals are not normally covered by Alberta Health, but say they have exhausted all options for returning her home and there needs to be some compassion.

Kokilaben and Dyvesh Rao

“Do you want to treat on [a] humanity basis an individual who is stuck here, or do you want to look for first the Alberta Health card?” asks Divyesh.

In the background is the fast-approaching birth of a new baby for the family. At a time when they would normally be taking care of mom and getting excited, instead the focus is on the ailing matriarch.

"All I know is I have to support her and my husband and my family, so I don't think about my pregnancy," said Viral Rao, who is due in mid-June.

"I know this [pregnancy] will go away, but the situatio she is in, it's about her life."