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Mother Forced to Leave Critically Ill Child | News

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Mother Forced to Leave Critically Ill Child

ATLANTA -- "I don't even know how to put it into words," Petra Gooding said while sitting on the couch outside the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Her daughter is inside, in total isolation, fighting life-threatening complications from her treatment.

Petra does not know how she will explain to her child that she may have to leave her. Seven-year-old Niamh is battling Stage 4 Neuroblastoma.

The mother and daughter came to Children's from Barbados last November, their private insurance paying for Niamh's treatment. They applied to extend their visas because Niamh is so ill and, having just recently received a bone marrow transplant, unable to be moved.

"They gave my daughter the six-month extension but did not give it to me," Petra said.

Hospital staff thought it was a clerical error, that the little girl would be approved and her mother denied. So Gooding appealed and was denied again. She must leave the country by Sept. 2, next Thursday.

"I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place," Petra said. "I would have to leave her and go and come back again.

And there would be no guarantee that she could get back into the country.

Petra says Niamh was an active happy child until the day she woke up with a terrible stomache ache. It was only a matter of days until the diagnosis. Petra's husband and her other daughter, who's two, remain in Barbados. She says the year has been devastating, but that she is focused on saving Niamh's life.

Social workers at the hospital say it's critically important that parents remain with their children, especially during brutal treatment such as a bone marrow transplant. Petra says her daughter has great faith in God.

"Everytime she goes through a difficult stage in her treatment she would tell me 'Mommy is this closer to getting back home to our family, is this closer?'" Petra said. 

She is pleading with whomever decided a seven-year-old girl could stay, alone.

"I would ask them, please, someone in there have a heart to help in some way, somehow," she said. "I understand there are laws and I never wanted to break them. I just want to be able to have my daughter treated so we can go back home. That's it."