'I'm slowly dying': Couple stuck in Texas for over a year can't afford plane tickets home to Australia

Andre Rivenell's health has declined for months and he said he just wants to get home to see his son before he's unable to travel.


Andre and Melissa Rivenell flew from Australia to Texas in 2019 to spend time with family.

More than a year later, they've spent their life savings and are still trying to get back home.

In December, Andre had a stroke and was diagnosed with a disease that doctors think might be ALS. Since then, his health has declined and he's not able to walk, eat or bathe on his own.

The couple now stays in a camper in Melissa's mother's backyard.

Their initial flight home in March 2020 was canceled. Then, Andre said his disability assistance was cut off because the Australian government told him he had been gone for too long.

"I'm slowly dying," Andre told KTRK. "I need to get home. I paid my taxes in Australia, I voted for these people and yet they treat me like this."

When the pandemic hit, Australia closed its borders completely: even to its own citizens. Even as they began reopening, the country enforced a limited weekly cap of people allowed to reenter.

The Rivenells said there are sometimes less than 40 people permitted on one flight, which sent some ticket prices up to more than $10,000.

Although they're registered on a list of almost 40,000 Australians trying to get home, the couple has been denied an emergency government loan twice, despite submitting paperwork to prove Andre's medical condition.

Without any income or health insurance, the couple can't afford the pricey plane tickets. Andre said he just wants to get home before he can't travel anymore.

"God forbid I die here, I don't want to do that because I want to see my son," Andre said.