Visa Granted: Family stuck in Japan are Detroit Lakes bound
A Detroit Lakes native and his family stuck in Japan are celebrating, as they are now cleared to leave the country.
Brook Chelmo, his Japanese wife, Keiko, and their 16-month old daughter, Aria have been desperately trying to get back to the U.S. after the devastating earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear plant explosions.
The Chelmos are living there, but have been trying to get Keiko a visa to live in the U.S. for three years.
Paperwork mistakes, Keiko's pregnancy and tighter homeland security measures held things up.
Then the earthquake shook up more than just the ground.
One natural and nuclear disaster after an-other had the Chelmos fearing for their safety, especially because little Aria suffers from a very rare disease, which causes her to stop breathing when she falls asleep.
An electric machine pumps air into her during that time, making blackouts another fear.
The young family and their family back in Minnesota have remained nerve-wracked and desperate to move back to the U.S.
Now, after a media blitz back in Minnesota and some serious urging from Senator Amy Klobuchar's office, Keiko has been granted a visa.
The family traveled to Okinawa for an interview at the U.S. Consulate Monday.
"We were nervous be-cause there is a lot of paperwork involved and it MUST be error free," Chelmo said. "We expected to be grilled about the authenticity of our relationship while they analyze our paperwork."
Chelmo says after about an hour, they were through with the ques-tions and the paperwork, and were told to sit down.
"Maybe ten nervous minutes later we were summoned again and told our visa would be sent by mail in two days," said Chelmo.
Chelmo says he and Keiko could hardly believe the fight there was over.
"Upon leaving it was my natural reaction to thank everyone we saw at the consulate. I must have thanked the security guard three times for giving back our cell phones and opening the door on our way out."
Chelmo says without Senator Klobuchar's office, they would still be stuck in Japan.
His mother back in Detroit Lakes, Joyce Chelmo, says Klobuchar definitely has her vote.
"She renewed my faith in politicians," she laughed, "I didn't think they fought for the little guy anymore, but she did."
Now, as the Chelmos in Japan tie up loose ends and prepare for a monumental move out of the country, the Chelmos back in Detroit Lakes prepare for a move-in.
"They are going to live with us for a little while," explains Joyce Chelmo, "so I have to get busy and baby-proof our house!"
An elated Grandmother who has yet to hold her Granddaughter, is also a nervous mother who is now left worrying about her son finding a good job in the U.S.
"He used to be a Pastor, but he's so smart and such a great public speaker that he could do anything," said Joyce Chelmo. "It's important that it's a good job with good health insurance, though, because Keiko can't work -- she has to take care of Aria around the clock."
The Chelmos will be able to bring Aria's Japanese-loaned breathing machine to Minnesota for a while until they are able to get one here.
While things are starting to fall into place for the Chelmo family, it is still a bittersweet departure for them, as they leave Keiko's family, who they have been living with in Japan.
"They are around us all day for the most part and Aria is their center," Brook Chelmo says.
"Keiko is sad to leave them but we will be happy to leave the tiny room the three of us cram into every night for bed."
Chelmo thinks it will be early June when that happens, but they still have to get baby Aria's passport, which will allow her back into Japan one day.
In the meantime, "Grandma Joyce" is sleeping well again, knowing her long-awaited reunion is just around the corner.
"I can't believe I actually get to hold Aria soon!"