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by Theresa Redula and Eden Debebe

The story of a British Columbian man stranded in the Philippines during the COVID-19 pandemic has come to a tragic end.

Kevin Lench was pronounced dead on October 9th, 2021 at a hospital in Kalibo, Aklan after a nearly year-long battle with late-stage liver disease.

“His brothers are sad because they didn’t get the chance to say goodbye,” said Lench’s step sister, Kim Heber.

“His mom still cries a lot, but that’s not gonna bring him back either.”

Lench’s story went viral on social media after he fell seriously ill while vacationing on Boracay island at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. During his mandatory quarantine on the island, Lench began to feel stomach pains, prompting him to go to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with liver failure.

“Kevin was in dire need of procedure to drain fluid accumulated in his abdomen,” Heber said.

“[The hospital] was holding out because they were waiting for money, we didn’t know, they didn’t contact us. We had no idea that was happening.”

With an emergency MedEvac to Canada costing anywhere from $30,000-$70,000, and Lench’s hospital stay already costing over $10,000, family and friends felt helpless – especially considering the lack of support Heber says they were getting from Global Affairs Canada.

“[Global Affairs Canada] reached out when Kev passed away and told us that if we’re gonna have them help us now that he’s deceased, it was gonna be a long intrusive ordeal and we’re like ‘we’re not into that’,” Heber said.

“We don’t wanna deal with that. Too much.”

In a statement to OMNI News, Global Affairs Canada said it was aware of Lench’s case, and that consular services were being provided to the family, but according to Heber, it was too little too late.

Strangers around the world and local volunteers in the Philippines became a crucial part of Lench’s support system, donating their time and money to Lench’s cause. People like Joven Antolin dedicated their time to guiding Lench through Boracay’s health care system, translating information from doctors in Tagalog and communicating it in English to his family in Canada.

“In Canada we have a health care system that when you get sick, you can go to the hospital, it’s going to be okay, and at the end of all of it, you just sign and go home,” Antolin said. *

“Here in the Philippines, when you go to hospital…if money does not come on time, there’s not much to be done. They cannot work without money being there.” *

In a statement, Panay Health Care MPC said Lench’s health needs were taken care of, notwithstanding the unpaid bills and his reportedly being turned away from several hospitals in Aklan.

 

OMNI News previously reported on fundraising initiatives from Lench’s family to help cover mounting hospital expenses. Family friend Matthew Gionette set up a GoFundMe page that has raised over $24,000 to date, with donations now going towards funeral expenses, hospital bills and transporting Lench’s body back to Canada.

“He knew how much everyone cared, and always was so shocked how strangers tried to help him on the GoFundMe page and elsewhere,” Gionette said.

A small memorial took place on October 28th in Boracay, with close friends in attendance. Antolin said he will be bringing Lench’s remains home to B.C. in December.

translated from Tagalog