What was supposed to be a short trip to Canada for a work conference has turned into a nightmare for an Argentinian family.
Just a few weeks ago, Matías Andretich and his wife, Emilia Abratte, were living a “perfect life” along with their seven-month-old son, Augusto.
“In a few days it changed completely and life kicked us in the only place that hurts,” Andretich told Global News from a hospital room at the MUHC’s Montreal Children’s Hospital.
Augusto went from being a happy, healthy baby to extremely ill over the span of a few days as the family made its way from Argentina to Montreal.
Andretich said they had noticed Augusto seemed a little tired prior to leaving but a doctor reassured them it was OK.
“There was just a bit of inflammation in his throat and because of that he couldn’t eat,” Andretich recounted.
They were told Tylenol would do the trick and departed for their trip that same night on Friday March 17.
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The next day, they had a stopover in Panama and Augusto was getting worse and worse.
By Sunday, after they had finally arrived in Montreal, Augusto wasn’t eating and wouldn’t take his medicine.
His parents brought him to the hospital after he woke up, at around 7 a.m.
“We come here and in less than a minute it was like 15 people over our little Augusto,” said his father. “It was crazy, we didn’t understand anything.”
Dr. Tamara Gafoor was one of those 15 or so people.
“He wasn’t responsive and was barely breathing on his own,” she recounted, explaining baby Augusto needed to be resuscitated.
He was intubated and fed his mother’s milk through a tube that goes directly to his stomach. He also underwent a procedure that required drilling into his bones, to allow for rapid medicine delivery.
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Doctors in Montreal aren’t sure why Augusto is so ill.
“Our best theory is that it’s a kind of inflammation that is affecting his brain and his brain stem that is making him unable to move and even have the strength to breathe on his own,” said Dr. Samara Zavalkoff.
One thing the medical team in Montreal is sure of, however, is that Augusto needs to be back home in Argentina.
“We’d really like to get him home so his family can be with their family and he can keep getting the medical care he needs,” Zavalkoff said.
In addition to being far away from their support system, medical costs are mounting.
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Each day spent in hospital costs close to $17,000 and the medevac flight, scheduled for early next week will cost close to $200,000.
Andretich said their insurance will only cover a small portion of the costs.
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A fundraiser which was launched in a bid to get the family back home got a bit of a boost after famed Canadiens goalie Carey Price and his wife Angela paid the family a visit.
In a rare move, Price then took to social media, to attract attention to the family’s plight.
Augusto’s medevac flight is scheduled to leave early next week.
“The trip home is going to be a very complicated venture,” said Zavalkoff who has been consulting with a neurologist in Argentina, in regards Augusto’s care.
“He’s going with a full team including an intensive care physician, nurse and respiratory therapist.”
The idea is to replicate the care he is getting in hospital during the flight.
The trip home will take more than 48 hours, according to Zavalkoff.
“It is going to involve four flights because a medical plane is small and so it can’t fly long distances.”
Andretich and his wife are overwhelmed with the outpouring of support they have received within the hospital and the wider community.
“It’s incredible, the people here in Montreal,” he said. “A lot of people who are helping us and we are like, really, thanks.”
Andretich knows the road ahead is uncertain.
“We need to stay really strong to save him,” he said.
Augusto is the couple’s only child, and after seven years of trying to conceive, he’s also their miracle baby.
Now the family is hoping for another miracle.
— with files from Global News’ Phil Carpenter
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