Probe after grandad contracted Legionnaires’ disease on holiday in Bulgaria

Colin Cookson and wife Iris.
Colin Cookson and wife Iris.

A grandad had to learn how to walk again after he was hospitalised for eight weeks when he contracted Legionnaires’ disease on holiday.

Colin Cookson, 72, and his wife Iris, 66, booked a two-week stay at the Sunny Days Hotel and Apartment complex in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, through Balkan Holidays.

Colin Cookson while he was undergoing treatment.

Colin Cookson while he was undergoing treatment.

The Billingham couple had stayed at the four-star hotel on previous occasions and were looking forward to returning last August, but just five days after arriving at the resort, Colin began to suffer flu-like symptoms.

The following day he sought treatment from a medical centre where he was put on an IV drip and diagnosed with a chest infection.

Colin began experiencing pains in his back and chest on August 18 and returned to the medical centre where doctors sent him for an x-ray.

He was given further oral medication and told he had pneumonia.

Colin Cookson

The illness has taken its toll and I am still not back to my old self.

The following day his condition had deteriorated further and he was struggling to breathe.

His condition got so bad that he was admitted to hospital in Burgas and was in hospital for six days before being flown home to the UK by air ambulance.

The former stage rigger was taken to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough where he was intubated and diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease during a five-week stay, with a further two weeks spent convalescing at the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton.

He has struggled to learn to walk again, after suffering muscle wastage as a result of his illness, and still relies on crutches to get around.

The couple claim the air conditioner in their room was not working and that Balkan Holidays failed to provide support to Iris.

An investiogation is now underway to find out how Colin contracted the disease.

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious lung infection caused by Legionella bacteria and usually develops after breathing in small droplets of contaminated water.

Colin, a great grandfather said: “The illness has taken its toll and I am still not back to my old self.

“It’s not just me that has suffered, my wife has had to spend a lot of time looking after me.

“The whole ordeal was very difficult and frightening for my wife who was left struggling to cope on her own, in a foreign country, after I had fallen so ill.

“We need answers and want to ensure that, if possible, no one else has to suffer like we have.”

The couple has instructed lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the problems they suffered to help them find answers about what caused Colin to develop the illness.

A spokesperson for Balkan Holidays said: “There is an ongoing investigation into the circumstances of Mr Cookson’s illness and we are unable to comment further until these enquiries are completed in the meantime we wish Mr Cookson a speedy recovery.”