Venezuela holiday illness
A Doncaster man still suffering serious health problems two years after a Venezuela holiday was ruined by a serious gastric illness is bringing legal action against the tour operator, First Choice.
Julian Hurley, now 47 and wife Jayne, of Whiphill Lane, Armthorpe, were on a two-week holiday to the Costa Caribe Beach Resort, on Marguerita Island, off the northern coast of Venezuela, in the summer of 2004, when he was struck down with acute gastroenteritis, eight days into their break.
Mr Hurley is seeking damages from tour operator First Choice, with help from solicitor Elizabeth Tetzner, of national law firm Irwin Mitchell, which has offices in Sheffield's Riverside. First Choice has already admitted liability and Ms Tetzner is currently in the process of attempting to settle the case.
Recalling his experience, Mr Hurley said: "This was supposed to be a fairytale holiday but ended up being a horror story. I had major concerns about the standard of cleanliness at the hotel right from the start.
"I noticed a definite smell of sewage, birds were allowed to fly in and out of the restaurant and food in the buffet area was left uncovered for long periods. The food was not heated properly and often looked like it had been prepared for earlier meals.
"We had only been there just over a week when Jayne and I were taken ill. Help from the holiday representative was non-existent and hotel staff were very defensive, suggesting the trouble couldn't possibly be food poisoning."
Mrs Hurley recovered after a few days but her husband describes being in excruciating pain and was virtually unable to leave his room for the remainder of the holiday. He says he had to rush for the toilet constantly and was doubled over with pain.
He said: "There wasn't a doctor in the resort and no one would come out to see me. Finally, a doctor gave a prescription over the telephone without even examining me, but I was in such pain I was ready to accept any help and couldn't think about the risks."
Venezuela holiday illness diagnosed as Shigella
Mr Hurley continued to suffer ill effects and, after he was visited by his GP on his return to the UK, tests were carried out. A week later, he received a call from Doncaster Royal Infirmary, requesting he admit himself immediately, as they had diagnosed the potentially fatal Shigella virus, which is believed to kill about a million children each year.
After five days in isolation, Mr Hurley was allowed home, but was unable to return to work for a year after experiencing extreme lethargy and painful joints, affecting his mobility.
He continues to suffer chronic fatigue, tiring easily and describing himself as completely washed out after a day at work. Specialists at the Doncaster Royal Infirmary have confirmed he has also sustained liver and kidney damage and in addition he now has irritable bowel syndrome, as the result of his ordeal.
Mr Hurley said: "My life has completely changed. Jayne and I used to go to the gym and enjoy evenings out but my social life is now practically non-existent. The compensation will help, but I'd much rather have my health back."
Lawyer for Venezuela holiday illness
Overseas travel litigation specialist Miss Tetzner of Irwin Mitchell said: "To be very poorly while on holiday in Venezuela was bad enough, but unfortunately Mr Hurley has also had his ongoing health and his quality of life severely compromised. First Choice have acted responsibly in admitting liability and agreeing to compensate Mr Hurley, but clearly it would have been immensely preferable if the problem had not been allowed to arise in the first place.
"Hundreds of people contact us every year with serious complaints about health and hygiene issues at hotels around the world, where they've become ill or become involved in an accident through no fault of their own. In some cases, they never make a full recovery. Most of injuries could have been easily avoided if hotels had implemented correct health and hygiene procedures."
If you or someone you know has suffered from holiday illness abroad, our solicitors can help. Visit our illness abroad section.