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No answers, little hope: Elderly US couple stuck in Malaysia running low on medicine

In November 2019, Charles and Daun Stevens of Western New York took a military hop from NYC to Hawaii. They were set to embark on a multi-month adventure, exploring the Hawaiian Islands, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and their favorite stop of all, Thailand.

“This is typical of what they do together,” says daughter, Connie Zimicki. “Charles has the opportunity to fly anywhere in the world because he is retired from the Army.”

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Connie adds that her parents, ages 80 and 76, have taken flights annually around the world for 8+ years and that it’s a nice reward for the years of service he so proudly paid to our country. From riding elephants to trying new cuisine and cultures, their trip has included unforgettable moments. But things turned uncertain and chaotic weeks ago, when they learned they may not be able to make it back home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“They were in Thailand and headed to Japan to get to a military base, where they would be safe and figure out the best way back to the US,” son, Jerry West says. “But, officials at the border said that they would need to self-quarantine and that meant finding a 5-star hotel that could offer room service to get all of their meals. They would also have had to wear ankle bracelets.”

If they broke those rules, Jerry adds, they would be thrown into jail for disobeying orders. The couple decided that this wasn’t their best option and headed back to a location they were most comfortable – Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Malaysia is now on lock down through April 16th. The terrifying reality is that both Charles and Daun are running low on their essential medicine. Connie, a local Respiratory Therapist, says their situation is dire.

“My mom had open heart surgery within the last couple of years, following which she has had pulmonary issues and she is diabetic,” explains Connie. “Charles has had cardiac surgery and several issues as result of his service in Vietnam.” 

Feeling hopeless, the brother and sister are now scrambling from here in Western New York to ensure their parents are cared for thousands of miles away, with just two weeks left of their medicinal supply. Medicine like blood thinners, and cardiac and diabetes medications.

“If they have a medical crisis, what is going to happen? We are working to get answers from their physicians here – do they ration their medicine, do they go to the nearest hospital, but then we worry that there would be a risk of infection. It’s a nightmare.”

The latest information the couple was told is that surrounding countries have shut down their borders, and that the US Embassy has also been shut down. They were told to register with the Safe Travelers Program, and wait.

But, knowing medicine is running low, time is not on their side.

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“We are trying to see if we can send medicine, or come up with an option to get them to a military base in Japan, but we are extremely nervous. It’s the medicine more than anything at this point. They are doing okay – walking to a nearby McDonald’s for food and getting water bottles from their hotel – but it’s not ideal living conditions,” says Jerry.

Their glimmer of hope is awareness of their parents’ story and support from individuals who can potentially help: “We know that everyone is struggling right now – we are hoping someone out there reading this story has advice to give us or support to lend us.”

If you are able to help in this critical situation, please reach out to Hope Rises at hope_rises@yahoo.com. We will be monitoring this daily, and will put you in touch with both Connie and Jerry.

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