Brianna Wolters has been spending every waking hour outside her shifts as a nurse at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, desperately trying to help her mother who is stranded in Nepal amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Fifty-two-year-old Molly Sitwell embarked on a journey of a lifetime in early March, after planning and training for two years.
“We left Canada on the 11th, everything was fine. I mean, there were certainly rumblings, but we were allowed to leave the country, we were allowed to get a visitor’s permit upon entering Nepal,” said Sitwell.
At the time, there were no travel restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sitwell travelled to Nepal from Ontario, with a friend, to trek to Mount Everest base camp.
“My mom is very athletic … and rocks the gym all the time and so they decided to commemorate both of their fathers’ deaths, they wanted to do Mount Everest together,” explained Wolters.
Sitwell achieved her goal but the thrill soon turned to panic.
She learned Nepal would be shutting down its main airport to all travel.
“The guides have been doing this for many years and said there was absolutely no way to get them down the mountain safely in time to catch those last flights,” said Wolters.
By the time the Canadian friends made it down, they had to scramble to find money to pay for a flight to the capital Kathmandu because a lockdown was announced by the government and they feared not making out of the country.
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Then came word the airport would be closed until April 15.
“She’s tired, it’s exhausting, not only physically from the climb,” said Wolters. “Currently the embassy is closed and so they don’t have Canadian representation in Nepal for them.”
As a frontline healthcare worker, Wolters is already under an immense amount of pressure due to the pandemic, but not knowing when or how her mother will return is weighing on her.
Also, she fears what might happen if her mother were to fall ill due to COVID-19.
“I’m already dealing with a lot of stress as a nurse in downtown Toronto with the whole Coronavirus and trying to tackle that head on every day and now I have family and friends stuck in Nepal,” she said.
There is a Facebook group indicating at least 144 Canadians are currently stuck in Nepal.
Several of them have reached out to Global News to share their experiences.
“My friends and family are very worried and we are all waiting for Canada to implement safe and affordable options for me to return,” said Valerie Denis, of Calgary, Alta., who went to Nepal in March to build a school.
Sandra Fraser of Halifax, N.S., told Global News, “We are two Canadians trapped abroad in Kathmandu, Nepal. We left our trek early to try to leave the country when Canada advised us to, unfortunately all departing flights, including ours, were cancelled.”
And Blaine Matthew of Fort McMurray, Alta., explained he and his wife quit their jobs to travel the world.
When he learned of travel restrictions, he booked a flight home for himself and his wife, but the airport closed.
“The situation is very confusing, and it’s unfortunate the Canadian government has left us in he dark,” he wrote.
Over the last few days, a number of foreign countries have repatriated their citizens from Nepal, including the United States.
“I really want the government to contact the Canadians and let them know what they’re doing and what their plan is to get them home safely,” said Wolters.
“And that they would follow in the footsteps of other countries that are getting their citizens home.”