A PARALYSED pensioner was stranded on a life support machine in Greece after he was struck down by a stroke on a dream Mediterranean cruise.
Geoff Sanger was left critically ill in an Athens hospital, four weeks after he collapsed on the QEII off the coast of Crete.
Greek doctors said although barely conscious, the 67-year-old from Cymau, Wrexham, was stable enough to be flown home more than a week ago.
But his family say holiday insurers told them they couldn’t immediately find him an intensive care bed closer to home.
However, Mr Sanger was flown back to the UK by air ambulance on Tuesday and was due at Hawarden Airport during the evening after the Chronicle went to press.
Speaking from his bedside in Athens, Geoff’s wife Gaynor described how the once-in-a-lifetime trip had turned into a “nightmare”.
She said she was desperate to get her husband home to North Wales and she only been able to see her him for an hour-and-a-half at a time.
The QEII cruise was the first time the couple had travelled overseas in more than 40 years of marriage.
Wheelchair-bound Mr Sanger was paralysed from the waist down after a roof fall 15 years ago and the couple had saved up for the dream holiday.
But disaster struck when former Brymbo Steel worker suffered a massive stroke on Monday, September 1.
Mr Sanger spent a night in the medical centre on the Cunard liner and the next day was taken to the intensive care unit at the Metropolitan Hospital in Athens.
Last week, doctors said he was stable enough to be transferred back to the UK, but the family say insurers Norwich Union couldn’t find an intensive care bed available in North Wales.
Then on Monday, the family got a call to say an air ambulance would bring Geoff back to Hawarden airport as a bed had been found at Wrexham Maelor Hospital.
Gaynor said: “It has been a nightmare, I would not wish it on anyone. It has been hell despite the wonderful support from all the Greek staff and people.
“I have only been able to see my husband for half-an-hour twice a day and because we are abroad it is hard to find out what is going on.
“I have been desperate to get Geoff back to North Wales and it has been so hard waiting for news. He has been stable for over a week but we have been told there was nowhere to take him because of a lack of ITU beds. It has been upsetting.”
“His dream was to travel on the QE2. It has turned into a nightmare.”
Brother Neil Sanger, 63, said: “It has been so frustrating waiting to try and get him home.
“Once doctors said he was stable enough to return to the UK we expected this to happen within a day, but it ran on over a week. We don’t know how much Geoff knows about what is happening but his poor wife has been going through hell without the support her family can give.
“Geoff has such a large family network there are so many people who can support him and his wife and daughter. We just want him home in Wrexham.”
A spokeswoman from the Wrexham Maelor Hospital said they were first made aware of the request for a bed for Mr Sanger on Monday and there was a bed available for him on Tuesday.
Insurers Norwich Union were unable to comment.