Patient Stories

Catherine Maher

  • Hernia Treatment
  • 03/09/2023
Catherine Maher

The Credit Union, Healthcare Abroad and the most amazing surgeon saved me.

Dubliner Catherine Maher has been to hell and back with her health but never ever thought going to Spain and getting a Credit Union loan would one day combine to get her back on track. By the time she was floored by a new illness four years ago, she had already beaten breast cancer (two large grade 2 tumours) and undergone a mastectomy. This is

Catherine’s Story:

“I originally had this pain in my right side. It was like being punched with a fist. This was four or five years ago. I sought help for several months and was given antibiotics. I ended up in A&E and was told I wasn’t a priority and I left after loads of hours waiting and went home. “I wasn’t feeling well at all. There was a family holiday organised and I decided to go, hoping I’d get better. It was booked and I didn’t want to let anyone down. “Unfortunately I collapsed while I was in Spain. I was in chronic pain. I went to a local clinic and I was given an adrenalin shot and sent back to the accommodation. That worked overnight but the next day I ended up in a hospital in Torrevieja. I was spewing up black bile. “I was sent home again.

A few days later they did a scan in that hospital and told me that I had a secondary cancer tumour (following my previous cancer) in my stomach. “To be fair they did further scans and concluded it wasn’t a tumour after all but a strangulated hernia and then it was all-systems go from there. I underwent emergency surgery.

Spain saved my life and this was just the start of it. I had sepsis and all sorts of other things. There were complications so I ended up in Spain for four months before I could go home. “When I got back to Ireland, I met a medical team and I begged for specialist care to finally fix me. The hernia was still hanging out. I was asked to come off the HSE waiting list for a repair as they said it wasn’t a repair, that I required major surgery. “Mentally and physically, I was a mess. My brother had been to a different hospital in Denia, Spain with Healthcare Abroad for a hip replacement and I was with him and saw the incredible care he received.

“I spoke to the Healthcare Abroad team in Denia, went home, saw a GP and organised a loan through Ballyfermot Credit Union and organised to return this month in September. I had to say the team in Ballyfermot Credit Union were incredible. “I underwent major surgery with Dr Alberola at the HCB Hospital in Denia. That man is a genius. He operated on me for six hours. The doctors in Torrevieja saved my life and Dr Alberola then stepped in with his magic hands to finally fix me. “What I love about hospitals in Spain is that everyone is equal. There is no hierarchy. There is no status stuff. Ireland is full all of that. Anyone in a similar position needs to call Chris and his team at Healthcare Abroad.

Don’t wait around in Ireland. There are too many horror stories in Ireland. It’s frightening. “In Spain they still have that ethos of looking after people with doctors speaking with you on your level and with empathy. In Ireland it’s all about the money. We have lost our way. Thankfully I found my way with Healthcare Abroad, Ballyfermot Credit Union and Dr Antonio Alberola at the HCB Hospital in Denia.”

  • Catherine Maher travelled to Spain with Healthcare Abroad under the EU Cross Border Directive scheme. The HSE will reimburse all her medical costs around 16 weeks after she flies back to Ireland.
  • Healthcare Abroad is Ireland’s only agency rated 5-star by its patients and cares for more patients each month in its EU hospitals than any other.