Lebanese Couple Faces Deportation As Son Fights For Life
NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Omar Audi is a typical nine-year-old, except that he’s battling a deadly disease – and soon, he may be forced to do it alone.
Omar’s parents are being kicked out of the country, and away from the only place their son can be treated.
Now, they must make an impossible choice: leave their son alone, or take him home, they say, to die.
Every day presents a terrifying unknown for Omar and his parents, and they are desperate.
Omar, a Lebanese national, has a rare disease called hereditary andioedema. The illness causes painful swelling inside and outside his body, swelling so severe that it could kill him.
Omar was diagnosed with the disease in 2007, when he fell ill during a visit to New York from Lebanon.
“I get scared,” he said.
Every three days, Omar gets injected with a breakthrough medication that’s unavailable in his home country, but the very treatments that are keeping him alive may tear him apart from his family.
“I swear to God, I will take you with me,” his mother, Dania Audi, tells him.
At first, immigration officials allowed his parents to stay in the United States while Omar was being treated, but now his heartbroken mother and father are being deported.
“Everybody who has children, who has kids, to feel what I feel – that they want to separate us,” his mother said. “I can’t leave him alone, even if I want to die, but I can hug him.”
Omar was recently granted asylum and can stay with his grandmother in Queens, but the timid little boy says he can’t live without his parents.
“If they went, I want to go with them and die there,” Omar said.
Omar’s mother knows that taking him back to Lebanon will also mean taking him away from his medicine.
“I know he will die, I know,” Dania said.
Omar’s doctor, Dr. Paula Busse, said Lebanon isn’t an option.
“I feel like sending him over there is just, almost, a potential death sentence,” Dr. Busse said. “I just can’t, in my heart, let anyone go through that.”
The swelling is unresponsive to antihistamines, adrenaline or steroids, and the consequences of returning home are potentially tragic.
“They’ll die, often, in front of family members who are witnessing the patients die from airway swelling, so it’s a horrible, horrible death,” Dr. Busse said.
Busse reached out to the government, including Councilman Peter Vallone, who went to the Department of Homeland Security to advocate for the Audi family.
“I reached out to DHS and basically told them, ‘look, if there’s ever a case that called out for Christmas compassion, this is it,’” Councilman Vallone said.
Omar’s parents have hired an attorney, and they are appealing their deportation.
“This is not about staying in the States,” Dania said. “If the medicine is available in my country tomorrow, I will leave.”
Leaving Omar behind means the Audis might never see their son again.
“We need him,” Dania said. “We can’t live without him.”
For Omar, only one thing matters.
“I’m with my parents, and I’m safe with them,” he said.
The Audis pray that someone will hear their plea to save their son and their family.
Omar’s parents are scheduled to be deported on Christmas Day.
The Audis hired a new attorney to appeal their case on Thursday. The family is hopeful to get an extension that will allow them to stay together in the United States.