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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019
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Family desperate to bring brother in coma home from Turkey

The family have urged others to make sure they have the best insurance when travelling abroad.

Image: Go Fund Me

THE LIMERICK FAMILY of a man who’s in a coma in a Turkish hospital say they’re desperate to get him home – but it will cost them thousands.

They say their story highlights the challenges faced by families whose loved ones fall seriously ill abroad, while also showing how important it is to have proper insurance.

Liam McCarthy (52) was in Fethiye in Turkey when he suffered a stroke on 28 February. His sister Elaine told TheJournal.ie that they were informed what had happened to him by the Irish embassy in Turkey, which has kept them updated since the incident.

McCarthy was based in Ireland, but was on a prolonged stay with friends when he was initially diagnosed with MS.

“The phone rang and I saw it said ‘Turkey’ and I said ‘that’s Liam – I’ll ring him back later’ because I was on a walk,” recalled Elaine about when she found out that her brother had collapsed weeks after his initial diagnosis.

‘He could respond by blinking’

Elaine and her sister Dee went to visit Liam in Fethiye, where he was on a respirator. He was moved to another hospital into a room of his own, and the family were able to visit him.

“When we went in originally he could show emotion in his face – we knew he knew we were there,” recalled Elaine. “He could respond by blinking. He cried – we played him music and he cried.”

The family got scans sent to a relation who is a radiologist in Newcastle, who said that Liam did not have MS but had had a massive stroke. However, Elaine said the hospital did not agree with this diagnosis.

Liam was moved again to another hospital. He remains in that hospital in a ward with 10 other people, and Elaine said family members are not able to spend time with him.

“Through the embassy we got in for short periods, maybe 10 minutes,” said Elaine. “We were in there but they didn’t want us there; it wasn’t the norm. We couldn’t interact really with him.”

The family have been in contact with doctors in Ireland, and want to bring Liam home. However, as he currently has an infection, he isn’t able to travel.

“The embassy is keeping in contact with us every day,” said Elaine.

What we know now at the minute is he has two infections and he is on a ventilator and he cannot breathe for himself. So the hospital in Turkey have told us it’s OK for him to be moved, but doctors here told me he isn’t OK to be moved.

She said that as soon as his infection clears, he will be able to travel home by plane. However the costs are adding up for his stay in Turkey.

Hospital bills

Elaine said that she anticipates the next bill will show they owe the hospital up to €30,000 for his treatment so far.

“The health insurance he had would cover him in a private hospital but because he was unconscious he was taken to public hospital,” explained Elaine. “We sent the bills to his insurance company and hope he is covered for some or part of it.”

“The waiting is horrible,” she added. “At the moment he is unconscious and unaware of his situation but we have been told as he gets better he will slowly recover slightly, he will become aware of his situation and it is very important to have him here.”

He has what’s known as locked in syndrome and is paralysed from his eyes down. He may be blind and the family do not know if he can hear.

The family are keen to get him home so that if Liam does wake up, it isn’t in an unfamiliar place.

Insurance

“We’ve learned so much – he did have insurance which was the cheapest insurance,” said Elaine about her brother’s situation and what it had taught them. “Because he was travelling backwards and forwards for two years. Of course because he didn’t have a lot of money – he was an artist.”

She cautioned that “an awful lot of people get insurance” but “have no idea what we’re insured for”. “That’s one lesson we’ve learned bg time – you need medivac [included in your insurance], especially going outside of Europe.”

“What we’ve learned as well is there are no supports,” said Elaine. “The embassy are very good to send emails and liaise with the hospital but that’s what the embassy do. There’s nothing on the ground, nobody there on the ground.”

“The thing that has kept us going is that people have been so good, complete strangers have been coming up and making suggestions and doing things for us,” she said.

The family have set up a Go Fund Me campaign to help them raise funds for Liam’s care.

“If you’re outside Europe, have your cover,” Elaine advised people. “People need to check, especially people sending their teens or students off on J1 visas. We’ve got prices between €35 – 60k to get him back.”

The family’s Go Fund Me campaign is available here.

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