A British baby born prematurely during her parent’s holiday was held ‘hostage’ in a Turkish hospital for three months over an unpaid medical bill.
Ayda Ward was kept in intensive care, with her parents unable to cuddle or even feed her, while hospital bosses demanded £94,000 from the couple – despite their holiday insurers being liable for all costs.
The baby’s mother Adele Blake, 28, claims a hospital in Turkey confiscated her and her partner Brandon Ward’s, 19, passports. They also alarmed the couple by telling them that previous parents have been forced to abandon their babies.
When Ms Blake reached out to her insurer Atlas Direct, they claimed they had lost her paperwork, before ignoring her desperate calls for help.
Ms Blake told MailOnline: ‘ Even though she [Ayda] could take a bottle they kept feeding her on a tube [in intensive care] because they wanted to keep her there – they were literally holding her hostage.
‘I was told they needed their money or they would keep the baby and we wouldn’t be allowed to return to the UK’.
The couple, who set up a GoFundMe page to support them through their ordeal, were finally allowed to take their baby home after begging local police officers to rescue their daughter, who flew to Bradford on September 20.
Ms Blake is speaking out in the hope other families will not have to go through the same ordeal.
Baby Ayda Ward was ‘held hostage’ at at Turkish hospital after being born prematurely to mother Adele Blake, 28, and Brandon Ward, 19, (pictured) who could not pay a medical bill
Ayda was kept in intensive care where her parents were unable to cuddle or feed her
The hospital claimed Ayda was not well enough to be discharged, but actually wanted money
‘They were holding her hostage’
Ms Blake said: ‘The hospital management and our insurers should be ashamed of the way they treated us.
‘It’s completely disgusting to hold our baby hostage and deny us the chance to bond with her while they squabble over a bill. We’re treasuring every moment with Ayda now.
‘We missed out on the first three months of her life thanks to them. I just hope that by speaking out no-one else will ever have to suffer the way we did.’
After giving birth by emergency C-section with Mr Ward being barred from the room, Ms Blake was faced with a demand for money.
She said: ‘Brandon wasn’t allowed to be with me as it’s not the done thing in Turkey.
‘I was terrified and really wanted him there, particularly as I couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying. They strapped me down to a table ready for an emergency Caesarean.
‘Almost as soon as I came around from the anaesthetic a receptionist arrived in my room and started demanding money.
‘I was groggy and confused and really only wanted to see my baby but they wheeled me down to the office, insisting I make a down payment.’
Ms Blake only got to meet her baby daughter 10 hours later, while all the hospital’s management seemed to be worried about was ensuring her medical bill was paid.
She said: ‘I was only allowed to see her for 10 minutes a day and they wouldn’t let me feed her. It was heartbreaking.
‘Even though she could take a bottle they kept feeding her on a tube because they wanted to keep her there – they were literally holding her hostage.
‘I was told they needed their money or they would keep the baby and we wouldn’t be allowed to return to the UK.
‘The hospital had confiscated our passports and one of the managers, who’s also a doctor, told me, “We need payment and you will have to stay here ’til we get it – people have left babies before and never returned”.’
The family are finally home after local police stepped in (pictured on their flight to the UK)
The hospital demanded £94,000 from the couple, despite their travel insurer being liable to pay (pictured: the first time Mr Ward was allowed to hold Ayda at three days old)
‘They only seemed to care about their bill’
Despite constant pleas about when Ayda would be released, her family were constantly fobbed off.
Ms Blake said: ‘Every time we asked the doctor would say she needed another 10 or 15 days. They said she needed to be able to suckle before they could release her.
‘At first she was quite unwell but as a mum I could see the signs as she improved. I could tell that she was ready to suckle and am fairly certain they had been bottle feeding her for a while.’
Finally Ms Blake became so frustrated she demanded to know what the problem was.
She said: ‘When I finally confronted them about this one doctor came clean, saying that the only remaining problem was the outstanding bill.’
And a chilling text message Ms Blake received from a hospital administrator read: ‘Please tell them (sic the insurers) that we will not allow Ayda to be discharged without a prepayment.’
They even suggested the distraught mother contact the British Embassy to help her.
Ms Blake said: ‘They were clearly holding our baby as collateral and didn’t think there was anything wrong in that.
‘I know it’s a different country with different cultural values, but we were her parents and they weren’t interested in listening to us at all.
‘They ignored all our pleas to be allowed to bond with her; they just didn’t seem to care about the damage they were inflicting on our family. They only seemed to care about their bill.’
The hospital confiscated their passports, saying parents have previously abandoned babies
Their travel insurer Atlas Direct claimed they lost their paperwork, before ignoring their calls
‘Our insurers were just making a bad situation worse’
Ms Blake explained to the hospital she was covered by Atlas Direct holiday insurance, initially assuming payment was just a formality.
She said: ‘I was in a foreign country with a premature baby in intensive care, we were four hours from our resort, with no money and a hospital bill that was spiralling by over £1,200 every day.
‘Every time we contacted the insurance company we were met with excuses and refusals.
‘We were desperate. This was the biggest crisis of my life and our insurers were just making a bad situation worse.
‘They tried to insist that I hadn’t been declared fit to fly by my GP. Then they claimed that I’d had anaemia. When that excuse didn’t work they claimed they had lost all our paperwork.
‘Finally, after I’d resubmitted everything they just stopped returning our calls. It was clear they were trying to wriggle out of paying the bill and simply didn’t care about the immense difficulties that they were causing us.’
Mr Ward was barred by from Ayda’s delivery, with Ms Blake being ‘strapped to a table’
Coming round from an emergency c-section, Ms Blake was faced with a demand for money
‘They thought we’d just grab her and make a run for it’
In desperation, Ms Blake’s family launched a GoFundMe campaign and British strangers answered their plea, raising £4,000 to support the family through their ordeal.
Ms Blake said: ‘We used the money to rent a Turkish apartment and exist for the duration of our ordeal.
‘We’re so grateful for everyone’s help – it meant the world and made all the difference.
‘Our parents and friends really stepped in to save the day. Brandon’s mum, Karen Ward, was by my side for the birth and my parents flew over with my older son, Brandon, nine.
‘Sadly none of them were allowed to visit Ayda. The hospital wouldn’t even allow her dad into the room on the two occasions that I was allowed to hold her.
She said: ‘It broke her brother’s and her grandparents’ hearts – they were desperate to meet her – they would have been happy just to see her but it was all forbidden.
‘I wondered if they thought we’d just grab her and make a run for it.’
Ms Blake saw Ayda 10 hours after her birth and then only for 10 minutes a day
Ms Blake was told she was fit to fly by her GP, but Atlas Direct argued against this
‘The hospital made things incredibly difficult for us’
Driven to the brink of despair by their ordeal, Ms Blake contacted Turkish police and asked them to rescue her daughter.
She said: ‘The police were brilliant. They told me that the hospital had no right to keep her. They advised me to tell the hospital I was taking her and if they objected the police said they would accompany me to get my baby.’
Realising they had no choice, the hospital invited Ms Blake to spend two days on the ward to bond with her baby before staging an elaborate press conference.
She said: ‘I was choked up. It was September 13 and it was the first time Ayda got to meet her dad – she was nearly three months old – it was so unnecessary, so overwhelming.
‘Afterwards they tried to get me to sign a document accepting full personal responsibility for the bill. I refused and left while I had the chance.’
The family still had further hurdles to overcome as the hospital refused to counter-sign Ayda’s passport form for the British Consulate until they were paid.
Ms Blake said: ‘Finally the doctor that carried out the C-section counter-signed her passport. Right to the last minute we were on tenterhooks.
‘The hospital made things incredibly difficult for us and our insurers did nothing to help.
‘It was left to our parents to foot the bill for our return flights and if it hadn’t been for their support and the support from the public we would still be languishing in Turkey now.’
Donations from a GoFundMe page supported the family through their ordeal in Turkey
Ms Blake claims the hospital deliberately fed Ayda through a tube, but she could have a bottle
Turkish police stepped in saying the hospital had no right to keep Ayda away from her parents
Declared ‘fit to fly’ by her GP
The couple went on holiday to the popular Mediterranean resort of Marmaris earlier this year when Ms Blake was six-months pregnant.
She said: ‘We thought it would be nice to have a holiday together with Brandon’s family before the baby was born.’
Ms Blake’s GP declared she was ‘fit to fly’ before they jetted off on June 26. Yet, three days later she went into labour by the hotel pool.
She said: ‘I was just eating some chips when my waters broke. It was a complete shock and I panicked.
‘I knew it shouldn’t be happening. I was sobbing in the back of the ambulance.’
Ms Blake was taken to the state hospital before being rushed to a specialist paediatric unit at the Tekden Hospital in Denizli, four hours away.
The hospital initially refused to counter-sign Ayda’s passport until they were paid
The couple went on holiday to Marmaris when Ms Blake was six-months pregnant
Ms Blake went into labour three days into the holiday by the hotel swimming pool
‘How they can dare to say we weren’t compromised beggars belief’
An Atlas Direct Emergency Assistance team spokeswoman said: ‘We are very sorry to learn that Ms Blake was so unhappy with the treatment she received while in Turkey.
‘At the time the case was opened, there was information provided by the treating doctor which we had to verify with Ms Blake’s GP, which in turn had to be reviewed by our medical team.
‘Our priority has always been to provide the best medical outcome for both mum and baby. Unfortunately some delays did occur, however, at no point was the treatment of Adele and her baby compromised.’
Ms Blake responded: ‘Not compromised? How they can dare to say we weren’t compromised beggars belief.’
And despite numerous attempts for an explanation for the hospital’s treatment of Ms Blakeand baby Ayda, they just heard ‘vague excuses’.
Finally, after cancelling a telephone interview with the hospital manager, the woman who liaises with insurance companies at the Tekden hospital, Dilek Keyik, said: ‘They are out of the hospital for one week because of a meeting. They will contact you when they return back to Denizli. Sorry about that unexpected situation.’
When Mailonline chased that comment again, a hospital spokesperson said yesterday: ‘We have nothing further to add to our earlier statement, except to say our treatment of baby Ayda was exemplary and to date we still remain unpaid.’
A Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokesperson has also confirmed: ‘Staff from our Consulate in Marmaris provided assistance to a British family in June.’