The family of Hunter Smith, who suffered a brain injury after contracting pneumonia in the USA.
The family of Hunter Smith, who suffered a brain injury after contracting pneumonia in the USA.

‘It’s a struggle’: $130,000 to get essential medical care

CONCETTA Antico's joy at finally securing a flight and a hospital bed in Australia for her ill son was tempered by a huge medical bill needing to be paid, and the prospect of a drawn out recovery process.

The Byron Bay woman's son Hunter Smith, will arrive in Sydney on a medevac flight on Saturday (November 14), after securing a bed for him at Prince Albert Hospital in Sydney.

Mr Smith suffered catastrophic brain injury after non-COVID related pneumonia cut the oxygen supply to his brain.

 

Hunter Smith, suffered a brain injury after contracting pneumonia in the USA. Picture Contributed
Hunter Smith, suffered a brain injury after contracting pneumonia in the USA. Picture Contributed

 

Crippling medical fees in the USA forced the family to seek treatment in Australia for Mr Hunter, who has dual citizenship.While Mr Smith's parents had raised the funds to cover the $90,000 medevac flight, his mum said they were struggling to pay other medical fees.

"We're pretty broke now," she said. "I have (at least) a $42,000 hospital bill coming, and we'll have to pay for anything else that comes up."

Since October 23, the family had been forced to pay $2000 a day to keep Mr Smith in a hospital after his medical insurance would no longer pay for the facility.

"It's really, really difficult," Ms Antico said, the ordeal made so much harder because she had only been able to see her son via Zoom calls.

And while Mr Smith finally arrives in Sydney on Saturday, he and his medical team will need to quarantine for two weeks due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Also adding to Ms Antico's stress was a battle to gain guardianship of her son, who was unable to make decisions for himself.

She said the battle with bureaucracy to get help for her son consumed her every waking moment, and it was a struggle.

"It makes it hard to act on his behalf," she said.

"Until he is in NSW physically, they wouldn't give me legal rights."

It impeded her ability to do simple things for him, such as open a bank account, or apply for the NDIS.

As well as a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to cover costs, Ms Antico will finally open the art gallery she leased the day before her son fell ill.

Ms Antico has a genetic mutation that means she sees colours in a different way to most people.

Renowned Australian tetrachromat artist, Concetta Antico, will finally open her new gallery, with money from sales to go towards her son’s care. Picture: Marc Stapelberg
Renowned Australian tetrachromat artist, Concetta Antico, will finally open her new gallery, with money from sales to go towards her son’s care. Picture: Marc Stapelberg

She has used her skill to teach and create art over many years, and will open the Concetta Antico Gallery in Bangalow on Saturday, November 14 with the exhibition Visionary Realms.

She said any money raised through the sale of her art would go towards covering the cost of her son's medical treatment.

Of the fundraising efforts so far, Ms Antico said: "If it wasn't for the general public, Hunter would not be on a plane. I'm really grateful."



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