When Carole Fleming fell ill while on holiday in Turkey with a mysterious illness, her family faced a fight to raise the money to bring her home. But a u-turn from their insurance company put them in a position to make a huge contribution to our work.

Carole had been treated successfully for breast cancer in 2018, and was looking forward to a family holiday to visit her daughter’s parents in law in Turkey. But she suddenly fell ill during the trip and was taken to hospital, where her condition quickly became critical.

Carole, centre, was looking forward to the holiday in Turkey, visiting her son-in-law's family.

Carole was seriously ill with aplastic anaemia, which doctors initially struggled to diagnose. The family were told that the hospital needed to know the fees would be paid before they could start treatment. However, their holiday insurance company said they wouldn’t fund the treatment without a diagnosis that specifically ruled out a link with the breast cancer that Carole had recovered from previously. The horrified family were facing costs of £10,000 a day and had soon spent all their savings on hospital bills.

Carole’s daughter Stephanie said “When the doctors said they couldn’t start treatment without the money, I immediately asked if there was a form I could sign where they’d start it and if I didn’t pay, I’d go to prison. I don’t care how bad the prisons are out here. I don’t care if it’s 15 years, 20 years, 25 years – I’d do that time in a heartbeat if it gave mum a chance of making it.”

Stephanie and Carole enjoy happier times together.

The Fleming family launched a desperate appeal to crowd fund the money needed to bring Carole home to the UK in an air ambulance, so she could be treated by the NHS. Thanks to support from the PR team at Go Fund Me, the race to raise the funds to bring Carole home was covered in the Daily Mail and the Metro. The Manchester Evening News also publicised the appeal, and Granada TV ran two nights of coverage. There was an outpouring of donations from the general public. As a result, the appeal raised the funds needed in less than 48 hours! The family were also grateful to receive help from Stockport MP Navendu Mishra, who spoke directly to the foreign secretary and Home Office.

As the family raced to arrange the air ambulance, word came in from the insurance company to say they were able to cover the cost after all! Carole was brought home and has received a stem cell transplant. She is still in treatment and waiting to find out if the transplant has been a success.

Carole’s daughter Stephanie was stunned that her mother could so suddenly be at risk of losing her life to a disease that they had never heard of. "The effects are sudden and come without warning, to devastating effect, as we found out in September. The immune system shuts down. Treatment is long and arduous. Yet until this happened, we had never heard of it. And it proved hard to diagnose."

Searching online for support, the family members came across The Aplastic Anaemia Trust. They described being comforted to find a warm and friendly source of expert information - and particularly loved reading stories of patients who had been through similar experiences.

The Flemings decided to donate the money they had raised to The Aplastic Anaemia Trust – to improve treatment of aplastic anaemia and offer support to families going through diagnosis and treatment. The incredible donation was over £30,000. Stephanie said: “We were suddenly sitting on a significant fund, the prayers for which we’d raised it having been answered. After consulting with our wonderful donors, we are now donating these funds to The Aplastic Anaemia Trust.” 

This extremely generous gift will have a transformative effect on a small organisation like The AAT. Our CEO, Stevie, said "We are truly moved and inspired by Carole’s incredible story, and by her bravery and strength. This incredible gift the Fleming family are making to The AAT will make such a huge difference to people in Carole’s position. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to the family, and all your wonderful donors."

The AAT have exciting plans for the Flemings’ generous gift. We are in the early stages of planning a new training programme for nurses, which could be paid for with this generous donation. Helping to spread understanding of aplastic anaemia in a medical setting could make a huge difference to the experience of patients like Carole.