South East Wales

Tourist Michael Lonergan relives broken neck ordeal

A holidaymaker whose insurance provider would not pay his hospital fees or flight home after he broke his neck in Turkey, has spoken of his ordeal.

Michael Lonergan, 30, of Maesteg, was told he was paralysed from the neck down following a diving accident in June, and faced a £43,000 bill.

His flight home was later paid for by his employers.

Three months on, he says he is playing a "waiting game" to see if he will make a full recovery.

Mr Lonergan, his partner Debbie, and their children Jack, five, and Grace, one, were on their first family holiday.

The family were staying at the Didim Beach resort in Altinkum on the west coast of Turkey, when the accident happened.

Mr Lonergan said he had been scuba diving, and, "assuming it was deep enough", dived back into the water from a pier - a distance which the family claimed was about 3ft (0.9m).

"I hit my head on the sand and was almost knocked out, which probably would have been better because I wouldn't have known anything about it," he said.

"But I wasn't and I can remember floating in the water and wondering why my hands had bunched up into fists and my legs were just hanging beneath me.

"I just can remember thinking, 'Why can't I move, what's gone wrong here?'

"And then it sort of dawns on you then, you have done something serious."

'Screaming'

Mr Lonergan added: "You are fighting then, with yourself to try and get some air, but when you're laying face down in the water it's a bit tricky."

After passing out, Mr Lonergan said he remembers people "screaming" at him to establish who he was, and he was taken to hospital.

He said: "As I came round my partner and my children were in the room behind me.

"That was... emotional, because obviously for them as well, seeing me in all this wires and collars and everything.

"It actually made me physically sick."

Image caption Michael Lonergan served in the Army for seven years

Mr Lonergan was later transferred to a private hospital where he underwent surgery.

He said the insurance company initially agreed to pay, and the surgeon would not have operated "unless he'd had permission".

He added: "We only found out when my partner left the hotel that she had been put up in.

"The receptionist there said 'You need to pay, the insurance company is not going to pay'."

Medical fees

Later, at the hospital, Mr Lonergan said they were informed the insurance would not cover the medical fees.

"All of a sudden, they must've had a phone call off the insurance company and then things just went crazy," he said.

"We knew then that the insurance company weren't going to pay for the cost of the hospital, they weren't going to pay for the hotel for the last five days, they weren't going to pay to fly me home."

He said the original cost of the hospital fees was £43,000, but that was reduced to £16,000, while the £20,000 to fly him home was settled by his employers.

"I suppose if it wasn't for [employers] Harsco Metals and Tata Steel, I don't know where I'd be at the minute," he added.

At the time, Mr Lonergan's insurance company said clients should not expose themselves to "needless risk".

Since the accident, he has made good progress, and from being unable to move anything three months ago, now has good movement in his right side.

"They don't know if my left leg is going to have endurance or stamina for me to do great distances," he added.

"It's just a waiting game really to see how things recover," he added.

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