Aussie expats rally to send friend home from Bali after horror diagnosis
When Sarah Holman’s best friend suffered a medical emergency in their adopted home of Bali, the Australian expat knew the popular holiday spot was not the place she needed to be.
It was last Wednesday when Ms Holman first learned “her girl” Kristen Dineen was in the fight for her life after doctors found five masses on her brain. The largest of the tumours measures 5cm in diameter.
Ms Dineen, 31, from Carlsbad in San Diego, was given the shock diagnosis after visiting a GP to explore why symptoms from a sinus infection hadn’t cleared up after taking a round of antibiotics.
“She was feeling a little bit off, with some hip pain,” Ms Holman, originally from country Victoria, told nine.com.au.
“She’s been having flashing lights in her eye - she was diagnosed with sinusitis and put on a treatment. After the infection she went back to the hospital and just by chance they said ‘let’s give you a CT scan’.
Ms Holman said “within just hours” a number of masses were discovered on Ms Dineen’s brain.
“The initial CT spotted two masses - one large and one visible to the eye. She did the CT with contrast and by the morning (they found) five lumps on her brain,” she said.
Ms Dineen, who had relocated from the US to Bali around five years ago after a working holiday, was immediately moved to the local hospital’s intensive care unit.
It is not the first time the young American has faced a health scare. She fought and beat Melanoma in her early 20s.
“She was given the all-clear and she had to keep having check-ups,” Ms Holman said, adding that Ms Dineen returned to the US every six months for tests.
“The last check-up was in May… Everything was fine in May.”
Ms Holman said her friend’s reaction to the news of the tumours was unsurprisingly “just shock”, before the desperate need to return to the US set in.
It was at this point Ms Holman and a group of friends – three fellow expat Australians and an expat New Zealander – were left to figure out how to get Ms Dineen home.
The pressure from the tumours on her brain is so great it is unsafe for her to travel on a commercial flight and the cost of an air ambulance is well beyond their combined means. Given Ms Dineen's medical history her travel insurance also does not cover the costs of her trip home.
With little other options, the friends turned to the kindness of Ms Dineen’s loved ones and strangers by setting up a crowdfunding page.
“It was almost forced upon us,” Ms Holman said.
“For her to be on a commercial flight as just too unsafe. We just came to a point in Bali…. There were visa restrictions here, it was proving almost impossible to get her from here to the states.”
She said medical advice from doctors in Bali said Ms Dineen’s best case scenario was to get her to “western standards” medical care so “we can have more options”.
The crowd funding page was initially set up in the hope of raising $85,000 to transport Ms Dineen back to the US.
However, after discussion with Ms Dineen’s family the “charismatic, bubbly and sassy” woman was transported by emergency Medi-Vac air ambulance to Singapore over the weekend while she waits the Medi-Vac to the US.
The decision to travel to Singapore has put a large dent in Ms Dineen’s funds, with her donation target now raised to $150,000 following air Medivac quotes to US.
“The funds are keeping the miracle alive,” Ms Holman said, adding that all monies would be going towards the treatment costs in both Bali and Singapore.
“She’s going to be up for a real fight in the US. It won’t be cheap.
“She comes from quite a large family - her sister is due to get married, she was due fly home. This has thrown a big spanner in the works.”
In a touching message on Facebook, Ms Dineen’s father, Tom, described her as “the love of our life”.
“I never thought as a parent I would be faced with this type of news. The costs are very high to get her home. All of the help thus far is more than appreciated. She is the love of our life and we are trying to get her home,” he wrote in the September 21 post.
“A very big thanks to the family in Bali. You people are incredible and she is lucky to have you. She is an incredible young lady and she needs all the support we can get.”
Despite her diagnosis, Ms Dineen appears not to have lost her sense of humour, making light of the serious situation in a Facebook post to friends about her crowdfunding.
“So, you might have seen a little commotion coming out of Bali following an out of the blue medical diagnosis, Ms Dineen said in a Facebook post on September 22.
“To get back home safely the best option is a private air ambulance. Safe but also super expensive… I mean on the plus side I might be flying private really soon… and hey that’s been on my list for a while let’s be honest”.