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‘The harshest, cruellest thing’: man in MIQ on hunger strike to see dying father


Kurt Lehndorf, left, with his father, Des Lehndorf, who is dying of cancer. Kurt is on a hunger strike in MIQ, requesting early release to be with his father in his final days.

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Kurt Lehndorf, left, with his father, Des Lehndorf, who is dying of cancer. Kurt is on a hunger strike in MIQ, requesting early release to be with his father in his final days.

As Des Lehndorf dies of cancer, his son is 38 kilometres away, starving himself of food and water.

By 5pm on Sunday, Kurt Lehndorf will be 48 hours into a total hunger strike, in his room at the Sudima Auckland Airport, but just four days into his 10-day stay in managed isolation.

With his father’s condition rapidly deteriorating, Kurt Lehndorf said the strike was his only hope of potentially speeding up a request to be released early and self-isolate with his father.

“Everyone is preparing for his final moments, and I’m stuck in here, fighting this bulls…t. This is the harshest, cruellest thing I have heard of.”

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Kurt Lehndorf, a New Zealander who lives on the Gold Coast, returned from Brisbane last Wednesday for a final visit with Des, who has terminal acute myeloid leukaemia.

Des Lehndorf, pictured in 2010, during a 1250 kilometre South Island tramp to raise money for a kiwi re-introduction project. Des is now terminally ill with cancer. (File photo)

Stuff

Des Lehndorf, pictured in 2010, during a 1250 kilometre South Island tramp to raise money for a kiwi re-introduction project. Des is now terminally ill with cancer. (File photo)

His latest correspondence from the MIQ Isolation Exemptions Team, which Stuff has seen, stated the team needed more information in order to grant a temporary visit.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), which is responsible for MIQ, provided a statement to say Mr Lehndorf had been offered a visit or temporary pass to see his father. However Kurt Lehndorf disputed that, saying he’d received no confirmation of this, and his application stated it was still in progress.

“We are awaiting his response,” MBIE media spokeswoman Holly Blackler said.

“Exemptions for exceptional circumstances, such as to visit a dying relative, are only approved when the public health risk is assessed to be low. In a small number of cases, exemptions are approved for a temporary period and the applicant will need to return to the managed isolation facility to complete their managed isolation.

Sudima Auckland Airport, where Kurt Lehndorf is four days into a stay in managed isolation and two days into a food and water strike. (file photo)

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Sudima Auckland Airport, where Kurt Lehndorf is four days into a stay in managed isolation and two days into a food and water strike. (file photo)

“Our Exemptions team work seven days a week to ensure that applications are turned around as quickly as possible, and the distressing situations facing some of the people who apply are not ignored,” Blackler said.

Kurt Lehndorf said he’d already provided extensive paperwork so far, including authorisation letters from people at the family home, vaccination records and a letter from his father’s doctor stating the severity of his father’s illness.

“Every hour is precious,” he said. “Dad could pass away at any time.”

Kurt Lehndorf planned to continue with the hunger strike for as long as he needed to, but when he spoke to Stuff on Sunday admitted he was feeling the effects of dehydration.

Stuff

More than 215,000 people have returned to NZ through MIQ since March 2020.

“I feel awful. I can’t stand up and I’m incredibly dizzy. But this is the only tool I have.”

The ordeal had made him incredibly distressed and “embarrassed to be a New Zealander”.

Nurses were on site at the hotel, but when he spoke to Stuff, he said they were not monitoring his blood pressure, “but I expect they’ll need to start doing that soon”.

Blackler said Kurt Lehndorf’s health and wellbeing would be closely monitored for the rest of his stay in MIQ and meals would continue to be delivered.

Kurt Lehndorf last saw his father in July, shortly after receiving news of the diagnosis, and planned to commute back and forth from Australia, but then the Delta outbreak hit and the borders were slammed shut.

In his correspondence to the Isolation Exemptions Team, Kurt Lehndorf said he was double vaccinated and had had Covid-19 recently. His test results on departure and on day 1 of MIQ were both negative, with results from a test on Saturday still pending.



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