I couldn’t speak, I was paralysed, in intensive care, on a ventilator.. how could I cancel my holiday in person?
Anger as insurers refuse refund
Additional reporting by Jane Barrie Charlene Burke was in intensive care for a month after being completely paralysed by a freak illness.
She had planned a family holiday but, instead, her nearest and dearest were told to prepare for the worst as she battled the rare autoimmune disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome.
But just as her health improved, she was dealt a devastating blow by her travel agent and insurer – they wouldn’t refund the cost of her trip, using the excuse that she hadn’t cancelled in person.
Worn-out Charlene, 39, who is now on the road to recovery, said: “I’ve had to learn to walk again and I am just starting to get my life on track. I couldn’t cancel the holiday in person because I was paralysed, in intensive care, on a ventilator. I couldn’t speak.
“My mum phoned the holiday company. Now I’m being told that’s not good enough.”
Charlene had booked a break to Salou, Spain, with her sister Michelle, 36, and Michelle’s daughter Michaela, nine.
The cost was £910 and they were due to travel in June last year for a week – but Charlene took ill on April 14.
The former accounts assistant said: “I’d had what seemed like a lingering cold and was feeling dizzy and off balance. The doctor told me it was a virus.
“Then I tried to get out of bed one morning, fell flat on my face and couldn’t move to get up again. That’s when an ambulance was called.”
A specialist at Glasgow Royal Infirmary diagnosed Guillain-Barré – a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.
Charlene said: “The paralysis had spread to my neck and my breathing was affected. I was rushed to intensive care.”
Her mum Gina phoned On the Beach when it became clear that Charlene wasn’t going on holiday.
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