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The Plight Of A Frail, Elderly UK Citizen, Hospitalised and Stranded In Goa

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Ivor Gunton Main
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Ivor John Gunton is 77, and from the city of Bristol, in the UK. He is now spending his 7th week in an Indian hospital, after what started with admission for gastric pains, and then followed by an emergency operation to remove a cancerous growth.

Ivor’s health continues to deteriorate, and he urgently needs chemotherapy in the UK. His desperately worried wife of 38 years, Geraldine, (age 72), can see no end to this nightmare – despite an Air Ambulance having been approved for funding by his insurance company. Ivor has a medical certificate stating he has tested negative for COVID-19 twice. So, from a health perspective, he is able to fly.

Here is a brief timeline of events, leading to the current situation:

January – A doctors advice was sought for gastric pains, and he was initially treated for colitis.

February – He went off food, and started vomiting. After being admitted to hospital, CT scans were carried out, and although they originally returned as normal, subsequently showed a blockage. A colonoscopy then highlighted a tumor blocking his bowel. Emergency surgery was performed, to remove the tumor, and part of his bowel.

Early March – Transferred to ICU, with colostomy bag, and catheter. Sadly, while in ICU, a Scottish acquaintance of Ivor’s was admitted to the same ward, and died in the neighbouring bed to him.

2nd week of March – Ivor is given the all-clear to travel. His insurance company then set the Air Ambulance request in motion.

Late March – Ivor is moved to a private room, where he has been ever since.

The Air Ambulance was booked and confirmed for Ivor’s emergency repatriation on the 24th March. His wife Geraldine had returned to the UK on March 21st, and was awaiting his arrival from India, at home. She then received an email saying the Indian Airspace had been closed, and Ivor was stranded in Goa.

For the next 3 weeks, Geraldine frantically tried anyone and everyone, in order to get him back home to the UK. This included the UK FCO, the BBC, Telegraph, Delhi High Commission, Facebook appeals…the list goes on. All attempts were to no avail. As I said, Ivor was tested twice for COVID-19, and both times, the test came back negative.

Ivor’s Insurance company (RBS) then started the formalities for organising an Air Ambulance all over again. Permission for each country that the aircraft flies overhead, on route back to the UK, has to be obtained. On Tuesday 7th April, RBS Insurance told Geraldine his flight was booked Friday 10th April. All details of the flight were given to her, such as flight no., and aircraft registration. RBS did say to her, however, there were still some minor details to sort out before this was all going to happen.

Ivor’s Air Ambulance was then subsequently REFUSED permission to land at Goa Dabolim Airport – by the (Indian) Ministry of External Affairs. The MEA had stated that they ‘found the necessity of an Air Ambulance to be questionable.’ And so Diplomatic channels then had to be opened. Geraldine’s contact at the UK Foreign Office (Anna Moscuzza) told her there was ongoing communication between the UK FCO and the Delhi High Commission, and assured her that ALL documents requested by the Ministry of External Affairs were made available.

Since then, the only further progress for Ivor has been when RBS Insurance rang Geraldine, to confirm information that had been requested by the Indian MEA. This was Ivor’s address while in India, (which was in Benaulim village), his date of arrival, and his telephone number. Unfortunately, Ivor is somewhat of a technophobe, and doesn’t use cell phones, or the Internet. This is only increasing his feeling of isolation at the hospital.

On a personal note, Geraldine tells me this situation has hit her very hard. She does have a pre-existing anxiety condition, and is currently unable to eat or sleep, while her husband lies seriously ill in a hospital, 5000 miles away. Her friends and family are expressing serious concern about her health. She is living an emotional rollercoaster, and there’s no end to it.

The hospital allows Geraldine to phone her husband once a day, for around 15 minutes, which is of great comfort to her. She has nothing but praise for this particular hospital, which is ‘The Mothercare’ in Margao.

If she can get Ivor back to the UK, there is a full program of care waiting for him, including chemotherapy. He needs to be back in the UK as soon as possible, in order to receive this care. The medical team at RBS insurance are clearly stating Ivor is NOT fit for a commercial flight of any sort, and transport MUST be by a fully equipped Air Ambulance.

I am extremely appreciative that Geraldine has provided this story to us, at Incredible Goa magazine. I urge any readers who might carry any influence- to please get in touch with us immediately, so we can get Ivor home, reunited with his family, and in the care of the awaiting UK medical services.

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