A pensioner was dramatically winched off a cruise ship and then left stranded in Norway facing a £120,000 medical bill to get home – until the Evening Express intervened.
Maureen Kirkton was on a North Sea cruise with her husband John when she suffered heart problems off the Norwegian coast.
Rescuers braved challenging conditions to winch the 69-year-old on to a helicopter during a fierce storm and take her to a hospital in Stavanger.
Now, Mrs Kirkton, of Sheddocksley, has been told she suffered a potentially fatal relapse of her heart problems and must undergo surgery.
Doctors advised the best option was to send her to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary by air ambulance, at a cost of £120,000. But there had been a hold-up for a week in arranging the flight due to red tape between NHS Grampian, insurers Travel Insurance 4 Medical and the Stavanger hospital. However, once the Evening Express intervened, the matter was resolved within hours and Mrs Kirkton is to return home in the coming days.
Mr Kirkton, 69, said: “I’m so grateful to the Evening Express for helping. It’s a weight off both our minds to know we’re going home.”
Mrs Kirkton has cardiomyopathy, a condition affecting the heart. She left port in Newcastle with her husband on June 10 and they enjoyed 12 days on the Marella Discovery. Then on June 22, she fell ill and was seen by the ship’s medics, who called in an air ambulance.
Mr Kirkton, speaking from his wife’s hospital bedside, said: “It was very dramatic. She had to be winched up on to a helicopter during the worst summer storm in the North Sea for a decade.”
A spokeswoman for TUI, which operates the vessel, said: “The customer was evacuated by helicopter on June 22.”
A spokesman from Emergency Assistance Facilities, on behalf of Travel Insurance 4 Medical, said: “Our emergency team have been liaising with the hospital in Norway and her original treating hospital in Aberdeen, who have been doing everything they can to ensure Mrs Kirkton gets the best possible treatment and care.”
He added that following contact from the Evening Express a “communication issue” between medics in Aberdeen and Norway had been resolved and the pair would now be flown home.