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Body Repatriation – £7,000 Cuba To UK
Written by ITV News
Wednesday 27 July 2016 10:32

Family's desperate bid to raise cash to bring home woman who died on dream holiday in Cuba

A family is desperately trying to raise funds to repatriate the body of a Birmingham great-grandmother who died whilst on holiday in Cuba.

Sheila Dumbleton, aged 57, from Rednal, fell ill just days after arriving and died a month later.

Sheila and her husband Ray set off for Cuba at the start of June, having scrimped and saved for their dream holiday.

But just six days after arriving, she complained of feeling ill, and began coughing up blood.

Ray said they initially thought it was a reaction to a mosquito bite treatment she had been given, but over the following weeks, she was diagnosed with internal bleeding, then a stroke, then pneumonia.

Their travel insurance company, White Horse - booked via Thomas Cook - refused to meet her medical bills, insisting her illness was linked to pre-exsisting conditions she hadn't told them about.

A month after first being admitted, she died alone in hospital. Ray says he wasn't even allowed to visit to say a final farewell.

And now, two weeks later, her body is still in Cuba - as the authorities have refused to release her body.

Ray told ITV News Central they had not been aware of the conditions the insurance company referred to.

They're saying 'well you didn't declare the blood pressure, you didn't declare that she'd got these veins in her neck' - but how do you determine and tell them what's wrong if you don't know yourself?

I’ve looked through the leaflet they give you and I tell you what, if you don't tell them about an ingrowing toenail they wouldn't pay up. There seems a clause for everything in there to get out of paying.

In response, a spokesman for White Horse Ireland said: “We were very sorry to learn that Mrs Dumbleton died while on holiday in Cuba and we would like to send our condolences to her family.

“Unfortunately Mrs Dumbleton’s claim was not covered by her insurance policy because her medical history was not fully disclosed. We would like to stress to all holidaymakers how important it is to fully declare any pre-existing medical conditions or on-going medical investigations when buying travel insurance.”

Repatriation will cost around £7,000 - and the family don't yet know whether they'll have to pay Sheila's medical bills before her body will be released.

While the family is still waiting for a final bill, they fear it could be as much as £30,000 - and the British government has said it cannot help with the costs either.

The family has set up a GoFundMe fundraising page to try to help them reach their target.

£7,000 - to repatriate Sheila Dumbleton's body

£30,000 - estimated medical bill for Sheila's time in Cuba

Sheila’s daughter, Erica McCleary, told ITV News Central she was heartbroken that her mother would never meet her second great-grandchild, who was born shortly after she was taken ill.

"It hurts us as a family because no one's been able to be there for my mum, or say goodbyes to her or put her body to rest, or anything like that,” Sheila’s daughter, Erica McCleary, told ITV News Central.

“We don't expect the government to pay all the funds, even if we had to pay that back afterwards that would be fine, but there should be something there to help people, because it will happen again and again.

"And it's a human being, it's somebody's life. It might not mean much to other people, and they have their rules to go by, but she's my mum."

Breaking down in tears, Ray said all he wants now is to be able to say goodbye to his “amazing” wife.

She was everything. Everything. God, I miss her so much.

We had 35 years together. We've had our ups and downs. But I never got to tell her how much I loved her, not properly anyway. And now I never will.