58-year-old Charalambos ‘Babis’ Armenis has racked up a $450,000 bill after a visit to the Greek island of Corfu ended in the worse way possible when he suffered a stroke while on a staircase of his parents’ home.
The Greek-Australian, who lives in Queensland, was rushed to hospital after the stroke caused him to fall down a flight of stairs and smash his head on concrete, News.com.au reported.
As a result he suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage in the brain.
The father-of-five had returned to his home town to visit his mother and sister after having not seen them in years due to the pandemic. He was there for about six weeks when his trip turned into a nightmare following the horrific fall.
“I received a call from my cousin in Greece and immediately booked flights to Corfu, Greece,” his son Nik said.
“I was devastated and very worried. I then had to make the tough phone call to mum, who wasn’t in Greece at the time.”
Babis was put into a medically induced coma and within 24 hours he had a craniotomy, where doctors removed a piece of his skull to let the brain swell outside of the skull.
“If this was not done, he would not have survived,” Nik said.
Within half an hour of the fall, Babis was rushed to Corfu General Hospital to the emergency room.
“He waited there several hours with his head injury. There was minimal equipment and staff,” Nik explained.
“My aunty had to find a blood pressure machine and oxygen machine because no one was looking at dad.
“He was eventually shoved into a corner of the gynaecology ward, all alone and forgotten. Luckily my aunty was able to navigate the crazy Greek system and get him into the intensive care unit where they induced a coma.”
Nik said the ICU kept his father alive but his mother, who is a registered nurse, did a lot of the nursing.
“She would moisturise him, make sure pressure areas didn’t break, stopped him getting pressure sores, washed him and shaved him,” he said.
“It was a 24/7 job for mum and my aunty. I watched my mum start to deteriorate as well, due to a lack of sleep, stress and exhaustion.
"It was extremely stressful given there were no doctors or nurses ever around. We also had to buy most of our own medical supplies due to the hospital not having anything. Very scary situation.”
With the help of Lifeflight, the family were able to organise a flight for Babis who was eventually transferred to the Gold Coast University Hospital where he currently remains.
The family were able to raise $87,000 through generous donations via GoFundMe, but given the eye-watering $420,000 flight cost they may have to sell their dad’s house to cover the costs.
The flight went to Dubai and to Colombo in Sri Lanka where an Australian team then transported him to Brisbane.
“I personally took a loan for $200,000. Mum took a $100,000 loan from a family friend. The last $120,000 was a mixture of mum and dad’s savings, as well as my siblings,” Nik said.
“It was a stressful and tricky process, but Lifeflight was amazing.”
Nik said his father lost almost 38kg during his care at the Greek hospital and while he has since made great progress, there’s a long way to go.
“His entire right side is paralysed so he is bed bound. He also cannot talk. Initially he was in a coma for almost two months, then in a vegetative state for another month or so,” Nik said.
“He is slowly regaining some level of consciousness, but it has been a hard long road. He still needs another operation to replace the skull piece. Then he will go to rehabilitation.”
Nik said that while they were able to get their dad back home to Australia, it has come at a “huge expense” and the family now needs help financially as the bills “keep climbing”.
It’s the reason they have kept the GoFundMe page active.
“When dad tried to get travel insurance for his trip he was denied due to a pre-existing condition (dad has a stent which is a relatively common thing for someone his age). For him no amount of travel insurance would have helped.”