CHRISTMAS is looking a bit brighter this year for one West Auckland family whose seasonal spirit in the month leading up to it has been weighed down by mounting medical debt.
Sandy Naidu and her family have spent the past month unsure if she could afford to keep her mother-in-law's life support turned on after she had a heart attack while on holiday from Fiji.
Vijay Kumari, 58, arrived in New Zealand on November 19 and had planned to stay for a few months to help her son Ashik Chand and his wife Sandy with their four children after the arrival of a newborn.
The couple was preparing to return to work and study. But Kumari had a massive heart attack within four hours of her arrival and was rushed to North Shore Hospital.
She didn't have travel insurance and spent 14 days on life support at a cost of $6300 a day. She was discharged last week after spending 21 days in hospital.
The Immigration New Zealand website says non-residents on a visitors' visa do not have access to public healthcare and ACC does not cover heart-related illnesses.
The family was facing medical bills of $86,000 after just one week of medical care and expected to receive more bills in the new year.
The West Auckland community rallied around the family immediately and the wider public also helped as the story spread.
Supporters have so far helped raise $12,000.
Naidu said it showed that "there is still good in people" and she was very grateful to everyone who had supported them.
"The funds and gestures are still flowing in and every little bit is making a difference. I can't thank those people enough who have helped us and my mother-in-law," she said.
Kumari is now home with her grandchildren and is teaching them how to cook while she recovers.
"My daughter-in-law and son have been so good and I am very lucky to have all the support I have had," she said.
The grandmother faces a long journey to recovery, Naidu said.
"She can stay for nine months on her visitor's visa but will need ongoing medical care and two types of medication she has been prescribed aren't available in Fiji.
"We just hope she can stay longer if she needs to."
Sandy Naidu has opened an account to fundraise for her mother-in-law: ASB 12 3232 0028014 50.