TORONTO -- The wife of a Canadian diagnosed with a brain tumour in Thailand said her husband has undergone surgery to have a drain inserted into his head in an effort to relieve some pressure before his hopeful return home despite his condition deteriorating.

Kitchener resident Alex Witmer and his wife Jennifer Witmer, who had been living in New Brunswick, quit their jobs earlier this year and went on a six-week trip to Thailand before planning to relocate to Toronto.

The couple was about a month into their trip when the 30-year-old began suffering from a severe migraine. They went to the hospital in Koh Samui and after doctors completed scans they were told he had a tumour deep inside his brain that was cancerous.


The couple was then told the medication to reduce the pressure inside Alex’s head will only work for a few days and it would only be safe for him to fly home during that time.

Their insurance company, Allianz Global Assistance, initially rejected the $265,000 air ambulance flight home because Alex reported a headache during an emergency room visit in Moncton while he had the flu a month ago. On Tuesday, the insurance company reversed the decision. 

While the couple waited in Thailand on answers from the insurance company, they said Alex's condition deteriorated rapidly. His wife said yesterday he is no longer part of the decision making process. 

"He was really suffering today," Jennifer told CTV News Toronto on Wednesday. "He went in for surgery now for the drain. Hopefully we can still leave as scheduled."

"They need to monitor him for 24-48 hours and he will need another scan before we can leave."

She said doctors are hoping the drain being inserted into Alex's brain will relieve enough pressure so it is safe to fly. 

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Meanwhile, the air ambulance service that was expected to fly from India to Thailand yesterday has been delayed. Jennifer said the company is dealing with permits and will now arrive on Friday (local time).


Parents concerned over travel back home

While word of Alex's trip home is welcomed news, his parents admitted from their Kitchener home they are distressed by the situation.

"Before he gets flown home, he might not even make it," Alex's mother Amanda said. "We don't know what's going to happen."


"I'm very happy he's coming home," Alex's father Phil said. "It doesn't take away the fear though."

Couple overwhelmed by support

A GoFundMe page has been organized to help raise funds for Alex's care and has received nearly $72,000 in two days. 

"We're overwhelmed and emotional," Jennifer said. "How do you put this into words to see so many strangers giving up so much to save his life is the most amazing thing ever."

"I feel really guilty that everyone feels so helpless and that they can’t be here."

On Tuesday, a family friend said on the fundraising page that the money raised would go towards medical equipment, therapy or medications Alex needs when he arrives home.