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Couple's holiday hell

PUBLISHED: 21:19 21 January 2002 | UPDATED: 11:13 03 March 2010

IT was meant to be the holiday of a lifetime for Don and Maggie Marshall but the trip to America to see the land of their TV heroes turned into a nightmare.

IT was meant to be the holiday of a lifetime for Don and Maggie Marshall but the trip to America to see the land of their TV heroes turned into a nightmare.

As the couple today relived their ordeal they told how they were looking forward to making the journey to Boston and New York, after years of loving to watch Cagney and Lacey, and old Hollywood films on television.

The couple, from Tranmere Grove, Ipswich, were delighted when Don's doctor gave him the all clear to fly for the first time, in the wake of his two heart attacks and three strokes.

But in the end it wasn't Don's health but Maggie's, which turned the last day of their wonderful trip into the start of a nightmare.

She fell ill twice, had her bag stolen in hospital … and that's not to mention a fire at their hotel and lost luggage!

Maggie, 67, today told how the trauma all started.

She said: "On the very last day we got up early and I suddenly felt a terrific pain across my body. It was like being gripped by a belt of pain."

She was taken to hospital where tests revealed her gall bladder had turned gangrenous, and underwent immediate keyhole surgery to remove it.

Don, 71, cancelled their flights and three days later she was well enough to return to the hotel they had been staying in.

Two days later a doctor told her she was fine to fly and Don rebooked their flights – even though insurance wouldn't cover the extra cost because the company said people were not allowed to fly within ten days of an operation.

"The staff looked after me well, but I just wanted to be home so much," said Maggie.

But on the very morning they were due to leave, she fell ill again and when she failed to stop being sick, they cancelled the flights again, and went back to the Lennox Hill Hospital –this time to A&E - in a taxi.

It was a six-hour wait once they had got past a security guard, a locked door, and written their names on a board.

Maggie said: "I felt so ill and it was a horrible place to be. There were drunks – one chap was literally thrown out by security.

"Then I noticed my bag, which had been under my chair, had gone. I couldn't believe it. I went round asking everybody if they had seen it, and they all looked away and didn't answer.

"It had my credit card in it, and by the time Don could phone to cancel the card, someone had already used it on the Metro and in a shop."

The bill was covered by the card company, but the drama hadn't helped the situation.

Maggie was eventually re-admitted to exactly the same hospital bed as she'd had before.

But after another five days on a drip in the hospital, doctors could not find what was causing her new illness and the strain was getting to her.

She said: "The psychiatric nurse came to see me on the ward, and I think I had a mini breakdown. I just wanted to be home, and it got to the stage where I felt I would never get back to England."

Eventually, the Marshall's insurers sent a doctor to New York, to accompany them home on a first class flight, and Maggie said: "It was such a wonderful sight to see the green fields in the rain, as we left the airport, that I cried."

Once safely back in Ipswich, tests at Ipswich Hospital revealed she had a stone in her bile duct, which was treated during another five days in a hospital bed.

The trauma caused her to lose half a stone in weight, but three months later she's now back to fitness and attends regular aerobics sessions.

Don added that some of their luggage had also been lost temporarily on arrival at Boston Airport. A small fire had broken out at their Boston hotel which saw guests dressed in just towels waiting at reception.

The extra cost of hotels, medication and flights added up to £4,000 – of which insurance has paid about half. The operation in America cost $17,000 and the doctor's advice another $5,500.

But he said: "It was a wonderful holiday until the very last day. We'd definitely go again."

Maggie added: "It wasn't a holiday from hell, but it turned into one at the end. Looking back, I can laugh about it now, but I was in tears at the time."

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