During the Christmas holidays Melbourne-based international student Manjot Singh Cheema took a trip to Adelaide with friends. They booked in to a hotel and decided to go for a swim in the hotel’s pool.
That’s when tragedy stuck.
Manjot – who comes from Ludhiana, Punjab – dived into the pool and critically injured his neck and spine. Tejwinder Singh, who was with Manjot, explained what happened:
We were staying at this hotel to enjoy our time-off. He got injured after he dived into the swimming pool. He remained submerged for a while before floating back to the surface.
Manjot’s friends pulled him from the water and performed CPR. Emergency services arrived and took Manjot to Adelaide hospital where he was admitted to the intensive care unit.
Manjot’s friends then delivered the awful news to his family:
We have informed his family back in India. But they are finding it difficult to travel to Australia at such short notice due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Dad determined to be by son’s side
Manjot’s dad, Gursharan Singh, remembers the call he got about Manjot’s accident:
When I got a call from an Australian number on December 26, it was evening in India. Instinctively, I knew this late evening call from Australia was not normal.
It was Manjot’s friend, who told me he was undergoing a scan. In the next call, he updated me that Manjot had been shifted to an intensive care unit. All I wanted to do was to fly to my son and ensure he was getting the best treatment. But the borders were closed, which further aggravated our woes.
Australia closed its borders to international travelers in March 2020 as COVID spread across the world. As at April 2021 the borders remain closed. The only people allowed in to the country are Australian citizens, or non-citizens who are granted special permission. All people entering Australia must enter strict hotel quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
Mnjot’s friends helped Gursharan apply for an inward travel exemption from the Australian Border Force, which was granted:
I got exemption on compassionate grounds with the support of local MPs in Adelaide, who were instrumental in enabling me to fly to Sydney last month, where I completed my quarantine, after which I arrived in Adelaide
Life changing impact
Gursharan recalls sadly how he sent his son to Australia in 2019 with “high hopes and aspirations.”
He was doing well and was on the right path until this tragedy occurred and changed the course of our lives. He is getting good treatment, but his recovery has been prolonged. He still cannot feel any sensation in his legs which remains of paramount concern for us and the doctors.
Manjot’s medical treatment is also creating financial stress for his family. His dad said:
I took a loan to fund his education in Australia. He was pursuing accounting initially but later switched to carpentry because it was relatively less expensive. He was working very hard before the accident to supplement his income and save money to repay the loan.
He is getting the best treatment in Australia, but we are struggling to keep up with the finances.
Accidents in around the water can take your life or cause serious injury. Your family and friends will feel the impact for the rest of their lives.
Don’t become a victim – take a free water safety course for international students:
- International students in Australia – click here
- International students in New Zealand – click here
- International students in the USA – click here
- International students in Canada – click here
Images: Gursharan Singh