A PENSIONER was left with a £28,000 bill to get his sick wife home when she became ill on a sunshine break when holiday insurers refused to pay out.
Brian and Margaret Douglas jetted out to Zante in Greece for a week-long break.
But their holiday turned to disaster when Maragaret, 74, was rushed to hospital with heart problems.
And their nightmare worsened when they realised they were not covered on their holiday insurance.
Stunned Brian, also 74, had to take out a £21,000 bank loan and fork out £7,000 of his life savings to pay for medical bills, hotels and an emergency flight back home.
And when the couple eventually returned Margaret had to undergo open-heart surgery, was left in a coma for three weeks and needed kidney dialysis.
As she recovers slowly in hospital Brian said: “I just want to warn people, to make sure it doesn’t happen to them.”
The couple booked flights to Zante and accommodation at the Golden Sun resort in Kalamaki, Zante, to depart on September 9.
Margaret, who lives with Brian in the Deer Park area of Hartlepool, had a history of recent health problems.
And days before they were due to go on holiday, Margaret was told by doctors that she had a heart murmur and related “breathlessness”.
They declared the problems with insurers Barclays – but Margaret was given the all clear by medics to travel.
But on September 14 Margaret became desperately ill and was rushed from hospital to hospital as doctors tried to find out what was wrong.
As Brian kept a bedside vigil he contacted Barclays only to be told he had not read the small print and was not covered because she was “informed at that time that any claims relating to that condition would be excluded”.
A devastated Brian had to dig into his savings to pay for hotels and medication and eventually had to take out a £21,000 loan for private medical flight home.
They eventually got home on October 18, when Brian had to fork out a further £180 for a private ambulance to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, where medics told him the grave news she would need life-saving surgery.
She survived but the couple now have the huge debt to face.
Today retired ship rigger Brian spoke to the Mail to warn other elderly holidaymakers or those with illnesses to check their insurance thoroughly before they even consider travelling.
He said: “A GP in Greece initially examined her and said he would send her for an ECG and it would only take an hour – but she went in one hospital on September 14 and didn’t come out until October 18.
“I was more worried about Margaret. I did think I would never get her home.
“When the rep told me the flight home was going to be £21,000 I just couldn’t believe it.”
Brian, who is dad to Beverley Maybee, 48, who tried to arrange help from her home in Ottawa, Canada, and Sharon Groom, 50, as well as a grandfather to Donna, 27, and Gemma Groom, 25, and Beverley’s three stepchildren, added: “If it wasn’t for ordinary Greek people, like receptionists and taxi drivers I don’t think I would have got by, they were great.
“I just want to make it clear to senior citizens to check their insurance. Check out everything before you go. Don’t make the mistakes we did.”
A spokesman for Barclays, which provided the couple’s holiday insurance confirmed that the Douglas’ are not eligible for reimbursement of the costs incurred.
He said: “Prior to travelling Mrs Douglas let us know about her condition of breathlessness and was informed at that time that any claims relating to that condition would be excluded.
“We have reviewed the circumstances of the claim and from the information we are in receipt of, it was appropriate to decline the claim.”
A spokesman for Thomas Cook said although the couple had booked a hotel-only trip with the firm which did not include the services of a resort representative, their rep team went “above and beyond” to make sure they were looked after and kept their family at home updated.
A spokesperson for the company, which liaised with the British Consulate, the insurers and hospital staff and visited Mrs Douglas in hospital, said: “We were really sorry to hear of Mrs Douglas becoming ill on holiday, and we hope she is now fully recovering.”