Jennifer Wardle, 70, found herself in hospital on the Island of Gran Canaria just two days into a family hospital after she was struck down by “severe food poisoning”.
Her daughter Mandy Wardle, 49, who went on the two-week getaway with her mum, said it was a “nightmare” when she “collapsed” and was left fighting for her life.
During the following days, Jennifer needed surgery to help her breath and round the clock attention from medical staff at a local hospital.
But even though the pensioner could now be flown back to the UK using a medical evacuation plane, Mandy claims her mum’s health insurer is refusing to pay out.
She said: “They refuse to talk to us, refuse to communicate with us. We want her home for Christmas - she’s already missed her little brother’s birthday. But we just don’t have that kind of money to get her home.”
Mandy, from Middlesbrough, said she went on holiday with her mum, sister and friend on November 8 to take in some sun and have a few nice dinners out.
But disaster struck when her mum suddenly fell ill on only the second day of their warm winter break.
She said: We arrived on the afternoon of the eighth, and we were out on that night, which was a Monday, all having a laugh as you do when you go abroad. On Tuesday, she wasn’t herself, but normally she gets a bit like that when she’s flown.
“She normally just rests that day, but she went out in the night with us all, and the next day she was in hospital. She had collapsed.”
The family rushed poor Jennifer to an emergency ward, where she required immediate attention from doctors.
“We took her to a hospital, which we later found out was a private one, so we raked up enough money to pay for that," she said. “Then we took her to a public one, and by Thursday, she was on life support.”
Initially, Mandy said her mum’s health insurance company was very supportive.
She said: “The insurance company were brilliant to start with. They contacted the hospital every day and translated what they were saying. They arranged with the hospital to have the tracheotomy put in because they said it would be easier to 'scoop and run' with her on the mediplane."
But when it transpired that Jennifer had visited doctors six days before she set off for the holiday to treat her COPD, Jennifer claims they then refused to pay for her £28,000 evacuation flight home.
“We declared on the insurance that she had COPD, that she’d had a recent chest infection, and that she’d had a hospital admission previously for one," Mandy said. We declared for the chest infection that she’d finished her antibiotics before she went away, so as far as she was aware, it was clear.
“[But] She went back to the doctors on November 2 for a COPD check. They had to give her some steroids for her COPD. The insurers are now saying it's part of the infection, so they won’t payout.”
Mandy has since been forced to stay out in Gran Canaria, paying £250 a week for an apartment while she helps care for her mother, with no certainty when she can return.
“It’s a nightmare, and it’s even worse for my sister because she’s having to do the bus journey, an hours bus journey, every day to go see my mum. I’m having to rent an apartment – it’s £250 a week – and then there are food costs on top of all of that, and travel.
She added: “My dad is heartbroken as he stayed at home. We didn’t even get a holiday, because it was all hospital visits and phone calls, stuff like that.”
Jennifer’s insurer was approached for comment but is yet to respond to requests.
Mandy is now appealing for financial help to get her mum home, with a donation page set up here.