WASHINGTON: The US State Department assured the Pakistan embassy on Friday that a comatose Pakistani student will get the visa he needs for continuing his treatment in a Minnesota hospital.
But doctors treating the 20-year-old student, Shahzaib Bajwa, feel that he has moved from the stage of an acute or intensive care to a long-term care. Now Mr Bajwa’s family and his physicians need to decide whether he should get that care at a hospital in the US or in Pakistan.
“The State Department has assured us that visa is not an issue,” Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani told Dawn.
“The decision has to be taken by his doctors and his family.”
A US State Department spokesman, Mark Thornburg, also told reporters in Washington that Mr Bajwa will get whatever support he needs.
“Our hearts go out to the injured student and his family during this difficult time,” Mr Thornburg said.
“His future treatment involves a number of factors that the family must weigh, and we are making every effort to offer as much flexibility as possible in maintaining his status while the family considers their options,” he said.
Hospital and embassy sources say that when the family first learned about Mr Bajwa’s medical condition, they agreed to take him back to Pakistan but later changed their mind.
“We respect their decision and are doing whatever we can to facilitate their stay in the US,” Ambassador Jilani said.
On Thursday, the embassy asked the State Department to issue a medical visa to Mr Bajwa to facilitate his treatment. His student visa expires on Feb. 28.
Mr Bajwa, an anthropology student at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, was injured on Nov 13 when his vehicle hit a deer on a highway. He was first taken to a community hospital in Cloquet, Minnesota, where he went into cardiac arrest and was transferred to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Centre. He has been in coma ever since.
Since Mr Bajwa came to the US as an exchange student, he was insured for a semester and the insurance company, Essentia Health, paid $100,000 for his treatment, although his total medical bills exceeded $350,000.
Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Centre waived the rest of the bill and has also offered to pay for an air-ambulance to take Mr Bajwa to Pakistan and for the doctor who will accompany him.
The hospital has already contacted the Al Shifa hospital in Islamabad and has offered to donate $90,000 for his treatment in Pakistan as well.
The Pakistan embassy has also launched a fund for Mr Bajwa’s treatment and urged the Pakistani-American community to help raise money for his treatment.