Seriously ill grandmother stranded in Bosnia

A seriously ill grandmother who was rushed to hospital during a pilgrimage to Medjugorje has been stranded because there is no bed for her here.

Mary Burke, 68, from Mallow, Co Cork, who is in the intensive care unit in Mostar Hospital in Bosnia, was to be flown home by air ambulance on Sunday but the trip was called off as Cork University Hospital had no bed available.

The flight was rescheduled for yesterday but was cancelled again for the same reason. Her family are waiting to hear if she can be brought home today but her daughter, Carmel Green, said she was becoming increasingly fearful she would never get her mother home.

“Initially, the delay was for medical reasons because mum was too ill to move but they got her stabilised,” said Carmel, who flew to be with her mum 10 days ago but came home yesterday to try to push her case here.

“We had a bit of an insurance issue because everything was outsourced to Greece but we got that sorted after banging our heads off brick walls for eight days.

“Now we have it sorted, we have the air ambulance ready and waiting to go, and there’s no beds. It’s unreal.”

Mary, who has been to Medjugorje many times, had no companion with her but travelled with Marian Pilgrimages, who Carmel said had been “amazing” in their response.

“You couldn’t fault them,” she said. “They’re fighting the same battles as I am.”

Mary flew out three weeks ago and was two days into her trip when she developed trouble breathing and was brought by ambulance to hospital in Mostar.

She was admitted to ICU and put on a respirator and has been in a medically induced coma since, but while she had been treated for an irregular heartbeat previously, she was in good health and the cause of her illness is unclear.

“It’s getting lost in translation. They keep saying her ‘condition’ and I keep asking what is her condition,” said Carmel. “Her lungs are in trouble, her heart is jumping out of her chest it’s so fast even though she’s sedated. If she was in Ireland, I’d have a much clearer picture of what we’re dealing with. We need to get her here as soon as possible.”

CUH confirmed it had not been able to accommodate Mary. “We are working towards having a bed available for Ms Burke,” it said.

It said it had just eight ICU beds to work with although an additional one was due to become available last night with the transfer of a patient to Dublin. It is also due to have a currently closed bed re-opened in November.

Carmel said she would try Limerick now. “I’d nearly take a bed anywhere if it’s in Ireland.” The mother-of-two was supposed to be on a family holiday in Disneyland Paris yesterday but said: “These are small things. The most important thing is that we get mum home.”


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