harlotte was losing a lot of blood. We waited, not knowing if she had died.” It had begun as a dream trip to the United Arab Emirates before the birth of her first child. But when Charlotte Quanbrough, 29, went into labour 14 weeks early, she and her partner had to find help fast in an unfamiliar country while unable to speak the language and under the threat of imprisonment.
Ms Quanbrough said: “My waters broke in the hotel bathroom. We drove half an hour to find that the local hospital’s maternity ward had closed. When we got to another, no men were allowed so my partner had to wait outside. No one spoke to me in English until the doctor arrived, saying I needed a caesarean under general anaesthetic, which I didn’t want in case the baby didn’t survive.”
Strict local laws in the emirate where they were staying added to the worry. Her partner, Steve Dadds, 28, a salesman for a car company, said: “It’s three months’ detention in Ras Al Khaimah for having a baby when unmarried. We couldn’t tell anyone.”
More than a million Britons a year visit the Emirates, run under varying degrees of Islamic conservatism whose rules also apply to visitors. Healthcare is good but expensive for non-Emiratis.
“I worried I would go to prison and medical bills would cost us the
He said: “I’d taken photos of the policy so I had the number. I called, as you are meant to, in the first 24 hours. They were the most helpful people we spoke to during the 14-week ordeal.”
EAF is a doctor-managed emergency service, on call 24/7 all year. Mr Dadds found it invaluable. In Ras Al Khaimah, foreign visitors must exit the country between the 32nd and 39th day of their stay to renew their visa. Over the 14 weeks, the couple and Ms Quanbrough’s mother had to make three separate trips to Oman, five hours away. Mr Dadds said: “EAF got us an Arabic-speaking case handler who organised our visas and trips to Oman. It liaised with our GP and got us advice the British Embassy couldn’t.”
Emergencies often mean longer and therefore costlier stays overseas. Premature babies cannot fly until after their due date, a fact unknown by 75pc of people, according to advice website Travel Insurance Explained.
Ms Quanbrough and Mr Dadds’ 14-week wait cost £12,700 for UAE hotels, £64,400 in medical expenses and £43,000 for airlift to Britain. Without their £240 insurance their bill would have been £121,100.
The family of Charles McLaughlin are less fortunate. Mr McLaughlin, 38, from Inverclyde, Scotland, was travelling in south-east Asia when he suffered a major stroke in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.
According to his sister, Jennifer McLaughlin, he is communicating with his eyelids. She said: “We can only guess how long he was on his own. It is testament to his health and strength that he survived.” Mr McLaughlin is in Cambodia’s largest governmentfunded hospital, receiving care his sister called “very limited” at £300 a night, paid for by the family.
A better equipped private hospital in the city would cost £2,000. Ms McLaughlin said: “Charles got insurance but extended his travels and we think not his cover. His bank won’t tell us without his permission, which he can’t give. Mum is very concerned.”
The family want to repatriate Charles, which would cost up to £105,000. To pay for it they have