Holiday nightmare costs family dear; Grandparents bail out sick Gemma, 22.
ANORTH East woman had to be bailed out of a Tunisian holiday by her grandparents after her insurance company refused to pay health fees.
Gemma Harris was left fighting for her life and without any way of paying for hospital bills after insurers decided a visit to her doctor two months earlier had invalidated her cover.
The 22-year-old was struck down with pneumonia and says all she wanted was to return home to be with her family in Linton, Morpeth.
But her passport was confiscated and she was told she could not leave hospital until she had paid the bill of almost pounds 5,000. Her insurance company claimed that although she had disclosed she had asthma she had not notified them she had seen a specialist about the condition two months before she travelled.
Desperate to get Ms Harris home, her grandparents and legal guardians Sidney and Maureen Chapman, both in their 60s, had to empty their savings and take out an emergency loan to raise the cash.
Mrs Chapman, 65, had to jump on a last minute flight and bring Gemma home, carrying an oxygen canister on her knee to help her breathe.
Now back in the North East, Ms Harris has spoken out to warn others to check their policy's small print and is calling on insurers to take more action to make sure people know what they have to declare.
"I thought I was doing all the right things, taking out insurance with someone like the Post Office and telling them I had asthma," said Ms Harris, who is studying for a foundation degree in dance at Newcastle College and works as a care home assistant in Blyth. "A few months before the holiday I went to a specialist and he changed my inhalers. I didn't know I had to tell them every time I went. It wasn't even serious, I felt fine.
"They said it is in the small print, but something as important as this should be in big red letters on the front. I wasn't trying to deceive anyone. Now my family are in a whole load of debt."
Mr Harris flew out on January 24 to Sousse in Tunisia to stay with her boyfriend's family for four days, but did not get home until over two weeks later She met Sami, 26, a chef, now working in London, while on holiday four years ago. They got engaged last year.
The total cost of her care and flights to bring her home have come to over pounds 5,000.
Mr Chapman, 66, a retired baker, said: "We would have paid whatever it cost to get her back, but it has left us in a lot of debt.
"They shouldn't have pulled the plug the way they did. Insurers should make more effort to make sure people know what they have to declare not hide it in the small print."
A spokesman for the Post Office, where Ms Harris took out her pounds 46 annual insurance policy said: "It is crucial that customers with an annual policy regularly update their travel insurance provider should they see any change in their health or receive any medical treatment, to ensure that cover can be maintained wherever possible."
SUFFERING Gemma in hospital HAPPY TO BE HOME Gemma Harris is back in Northumberland. But she is still angry that her holiday illness landed her family with a big bill