It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime to visit the Caribbean waters that surround the popular beachside resort town of Playa del Carmen in Mexico.
But just weeks after arriving for what was supposed to be a holiday over a few weeks, 29-year-old Brisbane woman Sarah Guinea faced a decision hundreds of thousands of Australians had to make amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While the decision to return home to Australia was an easy one for many, Ms Guinea decided to stay in Mexico out of fear of travelling amid a growing pandemic while having a blood auto-immune condition.
Ms Guinea’s condition means her immune system that produces autoantibodies attacks red blood cells as if they were substances foreign to the body. After discussing the option of flying home with her sister, Emilee Guinea, the pair decided it was safer for her to stay put until the early stage of the pandemic “blew over”.
“In March, when the federal government said to overseas Australians to come back, we weighed up the options considering Sarah’s auto-immune disease,” Emilee told news.com.au.
“When the government said pre-exposed conditions were at a high risk, it was really scary to hear. We decided that given the information, Sarah would be better to stay there because at that time we thought it would blow over quite quickly.”
But just two weeks ago, Ms Guinea’s plan to stay safe on the other side of the world took a deadly turn.
Two weeks ago, the marketing executive was rushed to hospital in “excruciating pain” and taken in for emergency surgery.
“I got a Facebook phone call from her friend in Mexico who had very broken English,” Emilee explained.
“I didn’t think much of it until I saw the amount of missed calls from him. I couldn’t make much sense of his call, but he was saying Sarah was in hospital and couldn’t speak.
“He sent me a photo of her, and I told him that my sister wasn’t asleep, she was in a coma.”
It is understood Ms Guinea was admitted to hospital with an ectopic pregnancy that had ruptured.
Ms Guinea was rushed into surgery, but suffered complications during the procedure.
“Her spleen ruptured and haemorrhaged … then she went into cardiac arrest,” Emilee explained.
“It took five minutes to revive her, then she was put into an induced coma. But the doctors couldn’t work out the source of the internal bleed.
“She was just bleeding and bleeding and bleeding.”
Emilee contacted the hospital, who were unaware of her sister’s auto-immune condition, which she said assisted the surgeons to stop the bleed.
“She came out of ICU seven days after it arriving to the hospital, and is in a general ward now,” Emilee explained.
“She is on dialysis, her kidneys are not working properly still. So we are going day by day at the moment.”
Emilee said her sister entered a private hospital on an expired travel insurance policy, which was only provided 90 days of coverage from her arrival into Mexico. She claims that her sister was unable to extend the travel insurance because of coverage restrictions amid the pandemic.
Now, Ms Guinea faces a medical bill upwards of $100,000 for the hospital stay, surgery and ongoing medical treatment before being able to return to Queensland. Emilee said her sister will be unable to fly for at least two months given the complications that could arise at 38,000 feet.
Emilee started a GoFundMe page to assist in raising funds for her sister, saying Ms Guinea is on hospital “scared” and “stressed” by the financial situation ahead of her.
“Of course Sarah is thankful to be alive, but the financial side of things is really stressful,” Emilee said.
“When she entered the hospital, she didn’t know she would need surgery. Had she known that, she might not have gone down a private route.
“Because she is still on dialysis, the hospital have not indicated when she will be able to fly home.”