Former Tumut residents Bruce and Rhonda Langborne have been granted verbal permission to visit their dying son in Queensland after their case made national news last week. The Langborne’s became the public face for dozens of families in dire circumstances, separated by a hard pandemic border closure between NSW and QLD, and their plight has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Their son, Mark Keans, has been receiving palliative chemotherapy for brain cancer in Brisbane. His parents and four siblings are spread across Eden, Port Macquarie, Wagga and Tumut, while his children are in Sydney.
Now, thanks to a surge of public support, their travel and quarantine expenses will be well and truly covered.
“A friend of my daughter’s decided he’d set up a gofundme page,” explained Mr Langborne.
The page, titled ‘Marks Final Wish GoFundMe’, was created at 7pm Thursday evening as news was starting to spread. When Mr Langborne spoke to The Times on Friday morning, it had already reached $223,000. Their goal had been just $30,000.
Mr Langborne said the family didn’t have anything to do with starting the fundraiser, but the page was closed to donations after the numbers started to climb.
“We can definitely afford to do the quarantine thing,” said Mr Langborne. “We’ve got a lot more than what we need.”
The excess donations will be put towards Marks’ children’s future education expenses, and some shared with others who found themselves in the same situation with the QLD-New South Wales border closed with little flexibility.
“My daughter contacted a young Canberra girl Friday morning and offered to pay her quarantine costs as well,” said Mr Langborne, referring to 26-year-old Sarah Caisip who had been trying to visit her dying father, Bernard. Ms Caisip was still waiting in quarantine when her father died. She was released for a private farewell (dressed in full PPE with a police escort) but denied an exemption to attend his funeral.
Mr Langborne said it’s been a difficult time for their family, juggling border requirements, quarantine periods and Mark’s chemotherapy. The family have received verbal confirmation that they will be allowed to visit Mr Keans from September 19 through 24, which Mr Langborne said is the window in which Mr Keans will be out of his chemotherapy toxicity period.
“It’s really hard,” said Mr Langborne. “We will be allowed to see him while in quarantine but be in full PPE gear while we see him.”
The mother of Mr Keans’ children has decided that the kids won’t take part in the visit. Instead, the Langbornes and Mr Keans’ adult siblings will take part, and will have to maintain social distancing.
“He’s very sick, very tired and not going to be able to do anything anyway,” said Mr Langborne.
“The kids have been told what’s happening, but I don’t think the younger ones understand it. They know he’s sick, but I don’t think they understand the gravity of it.”
Mr Langborne said that due to chemotherapy and Mr Keans’ toxicity periods, if they had missed the September visit, the next window to see Mr Keans would have been in mid-October.
Mr Keans’ partner has quit work in order to care for him full-time, but he isn’t expected to live past Christmas.
“It’s hard,” said Mr Langborne. “A little saving grace is that we haven’t been able to get there to see him…subconsciously you don’t recognise the gravity.
“There’s a little bit of denial there.”
The Langborne’s moved out of Tumut close to five years ago, but still own a home in the town. Their daughter, Tamara, and her husband own a business in Talbingo.