Patient not cleared for take off
THE cancer journey can be traumatic at the best of times, but for a Bellingen woman, part of her experience was especially harrowing.
Lynne Light is still so angry at her treatment at the hands of national carrier Virgin Airlines she wants her story told so that others don’t go through an experience she has described as “devastating”.
It was on June 6 that Ms Light was discharged from a Sydney hospital after reconstructive surgery following a double mastectomy.
She was driven to Sydney Airport in a hospital vehicle and checked in at the Virgin desk two hours before her flight back to Coffs Harbour was due to depart.
“I totally explained my medical situation to the very friendly girl at the check-in counter and she said she would make a special note and also put a hold on the seat next to me, if that made me more comfortable,” Ms Light said.
“I was very tired and very appreciative when I was called first before the flight boarded. But when I approached the counter the girls said there may be a problem and asked me to return to my seat.”
Ms Light said she became concerned and upset when other passengers were boarded and she still hadn’t been called.
“When I approached the desk I was told by an officious air hostess with no compassion whatsoever, that they (Virgin) were refusing to fly me home because I was between two and four days post-op and this was their policy,” she said.
“I was told I would need a special medical clearance on Virgin forms which would have to be faxed to the hospital and back, but they could not hold the flight. And so after begging and pleading and showing my discharge papers, the plane left without me.”
Ms Light said she was left traumatised by the experience.
“I was an absolute nervous wreck,” she said.
“I had no-one with me. I knew no-one who could come and get me in Sydney. I had no money to speak of or credit cards because for security reasons you can’t take them to hospital. On top of that I was weak.”
Ms Light said she was advised by a Virgin staff member to get accommodation for a couple of nights before the airline would fly her home.
“Luckily I rang my daughter who got me on a Qantas flight. That airline organised a medical clearance within an hour. Instead of getting to Bellingen at around four o’clock, I didn’t reach home until well after nine o’clock absolutely exhausted and emotionally rung out. It took me three days to recover.”
Since then Virgin has offered a $150 flight credit, but defended its handling of Ms Light’s situation.
“But I’m still angry,” she said.
“This was no way for a cancer patient recovering from surgery to be treated. There was clearly a breakdown in communication between the hospital and Virgin, but I should never have been made to pay as I did.”