A young woman has told how her ‘dream holiday’ at the scandal hit Steigenburger Aqua Magic Hotel in Egypt became the ‘most horrific and traumatic’ time of her life as she suffered from salmonella poisoning.
Jodie Brown, 20, of South Shields, says she became so ill when staying at the hotel this June that she feared for her life.
Continued fever, crippling stomach cramps, sickness and diarrhoea caused her to need immediate hospital admission when she landed in the UK this June.
Public Health England have since confirmed she had a stomach disease, caused by food poisoning from Salmonella.
Now, as investigations into the hotel continue following the deaths of British guests John and Susan Cooper in August – which authorities in Egypt have said were due to E.coli bacteria – Jodie is launching legal action against package holiday providers Thomas Cook.
It comes as her lawyer, travel litigation claims specialist Paul McClorry, of Hudgell Solicitors, says that given the size of the hotel, and the timeframe over which illnesses are being reported, the holiday firm could be facing a ‘seven-figure’ bill in compensation relating to those taken ill this summer.
‘Dream holiday’ turned into ‘most traumatic days’ of couple’s lives
Miss Brown had travelled with her partner Samuel Gibson, 23, to the hotel – rated five star by Thomas Cook – having identified it as their dream holiday and having saved up around £1,200 plus spending money for a week-long break.
However, they say that within days of arriving on June 11 – and without having left the hotel complex – Jodie became feverish, dizzy and faint.
With her illness dismissed by a doctor at the hotel as a throat infection, Jodie says she still tried to enjoy her holiday despite feeling unwell, but by the fourth day she was ‘spending most of the days in bed very sick.’
Samuel says he feared she was becoming seriously ill as her temperature was not dropping, and by the end, feared she’d be too unwell to get home as he thought the situation was ‘life-threatening’.
“I knew from the start it was a developing fever because she had a rapid rise in body temperature and when I checked her forehead the heat coming off her as like an oven,” he said.
“She had classic fever symptoms of hot and cold flashes with extreme nausea and diarrhea, but on our fourth day she became much worse and spent most of the day in bed. It developed to a point of critical illness, with a very strong fever, stomach cramps, sickness and diarrhea.
“This continued for the last two days of our holiday and she was getting worse. I worried she may not make it home as she couldn’t get out of bed, was feeling very faint, and had to be next to a toilet at all times.
“She spent the whole of our final night in the bathroom and then we were made to check out of our room, despite me saying how sick Jodie was. She had to stay on two chairs which we pushed together in the lobby as we waited for our transfer to the airport.
“The last day was very traumatic. We had to get the plane home but I said to Jodie on several occasions that I thought we needed to go to the Egyptian hospital instead as she was severely dehydrated after days of suffering this extreme illness.
“I was worried that after being unable to eat or drink and being untreated for so long and in a very hot country, it was a potentially a life-threatening matter.
“At the time we did not know it was as serious as salmonella poisoning either.”
Couple rushed straight to hospital on return to UK
Samuel took Jodie straight to A&E at South Tyneside Hospital as soon as they landed in the UK, where she was treated over two days, spending 24 hours on a drip having suffered from dehydration.
When discharged she was advised to stay in bed for the next few days, before they were then told she had suffered from food poisoning through salmonella, which is usually called by eating contaminated, undercooked meat, raw or undercooked eggs, food that has been cross-contaminated with Salmonella from raw foods (especially meats, poultry and eggs) or drinking water that has been contaminated.
Jodie says the news of the deaths of Burnley couple Mr and Mrs Cooper, aged 69 and 63, and the confirmation that she suffered from salmonella poisoning, has left her reflecting on how buffet meals at the hotel were served, with food left for long periods.
“Thinking back, the buffet meals are certainly a concern,” she said.
“I had an egg one morning which was not cooked at all so I didn’t eat it, but the buffet was running for hours and new food was just being placed on top of food that had been there for a long time. It wasn’t being replaced, just piled on top.
“It has been absolutely shocking to learn about the couple who died when at the hotel from E.coli just a couple of months after we were there, especially having been so ill myself.
“The whole experience was horrifying, frightening and painful, the most traumatic of my life. I have never felt anywhere near as ill as that in all my life and it was so bad at times that I was worried that I may die.
“It obviously ruined the entire holiday but I have been ill since I got back also. I have really struggled mentally and haven’t been eating well. I lost a stone in weight and I just don’t feel right. I used to be very active and went to the gym regularly but I just don’t have that energy at the minute.”
Solicitor says bill could reach seven figures as more seek compensation
Solicitor Paul McClorry, of Hudgell Solicitors, has been instructed to represent Miss Brown, and is also representing an increasing number of people currently who, like her, have suffered illness when staying at the hotel this summer.
He said: “We are representing many people who have stayed at the hotel from early April to late August this year who have been seriously ill.
“It appears there have been a number of health concerns which may have contributed to these illnesses, and this is not the first year that such claims have been brought against this hotel.
“Given the size of the hotel complex, and the fact we have cases from April through to August this year, it would not surprise me if we see the number of people affected this summer at the hotel reach several hundred as this matter unfolds.
“That of course could be hugely costly in terms of the total compensation settlements Thomas Cook could be facing. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was in the region of seven figures, but it is only right that people are compensated for their loss of holiday, and illness.
“For most people the impact will hopefully only be a matter of days in terms of their illness, but for some it could have a longer term impact, and in those cases, substantial damages will be sought to adequately compensate them for their ongoing loss of earnings and medical costs.”
The Ministry of Justice introduced new laws earlier this year that solicitors must follow when making gastric illness claims on behalf of clients, and Mr McClorry says his firm is conducting thorough reviews of all who make allegations before agreeing representation.
“It is important to stress, especially in light of recent law changes to prevent fraudulent claims, that all the people we represent have confirmation of their illness from medical professionals,” he added.
“This is not a free for all for anybody who has stayed at this hotel to come forward and claim to have been affected, but for people who have genuinely suffered like Jodie, compensation is very much the least they deserve.”
Samuel added: “The nightmare of our holiday has put us off ever travelling with Thomas Cook again. Not once did we leave the hotel for food and drinks the whole stay so it is impossible that she caught salmonella anywhere else other than the hotel grounds.
“Nobody should have to go through what we went through.”
Earlier this month it was reported that Thomas Cook was ordered to pay £26,000 in compensation and costs to a family struck down with a gastric illness at the hotel in Egypt just four weeks before Mr and Mrs Cooper died at the hotel.
It had been alleged Thomas Cook failed to ensure food and drink was safe for human consumption, free from pathogenic microorganisms and stored, cooked or reheated in a safe manner. It was also alleged that raw, undercooked and stale food was served.