Strokes abroad

My spouse suffered a stroke and a bleed last week here in the US, 2 days after we arrived here on our annual holiday in upstate NY. He is 88. Fortunately he has medicare insurance, as he is an american citizen, but resides in the UK. He is doing OK and will go into rehab for 2 weeks. He has no physical impairment (he can raise his arms and legs and has a strong grip) apart from some loss of peripheral vision in his right eye and anomic aphasia. My concern is getting him home to the UK. Obviously, this depends very much on his physical condition when we are due to fly back in Mid Oct. The doctor says the timing is fine as he wouldn't want him to fly within a month of suffering the stroke. He is currently being monitored to see whether he needs a pace-maker fitted before he can be sent home to our cabin in the woods as his atrial fibrilliation readings are sometimeS showing a 3 second interval. He is also being put back on a blood-thinner that his GP in the UK took him off of last year. Is there anything I should know/check with the doctors here before we fly? Or is there any advice anyone can give regarding this situation. I have already informed his GP in the UK. 

I had erratic heartbeat problems and the Doctors here were reluctant about me having a pacemaker. The Doctors were spot on as, over months, my heartbeat corrected itself.

Many Doctors reckon we are in danger during the first four weeks, so they prefer to have us close by for that period. 

You dont say when the stroke occurred. Stroke recovery is very slow.

Thats great that he will have rehab. That should help decide how fit he is.

I am an odd case in as much as travel disturbs me a lot. After three plus years I still cant cope with a trip to the airport, let alone a flight. But other survivors are OK with various journeys. Several of us have been repatriated so I guess you need the doctors advice and also advice as to what you ask from the airline. I know that railway companies do a great deal to help provided they are notified in advance.

You could speak to the people at the Stroke association. They have a lot of extra info.

Best wishes


What a thing to happen, its a terrible thing at any time but so far away from home.  I think Colin is right, ask the doctors or the insurance company, as I am sure the airline would want to ensure your boarded quickly without the queuing and getting off the other end and through the airport.  They will probably provide one of those little buggies in the airport to get from one end to the other so as to lesson the walking.  Best of luck, with the recovery. Keep us all posted.

Hi- I have been in a very similar situation in the exact same city after having a stroke at the grand age of 53. You are very lucky to have Medicare insurance.

I was in hospital for 3 weeks, i had very little movement on my right side and I was receiving hospital physio for about 30 minutes most days, I could not be moved to the rehab unit as my insurance company and the hospital were arguing about paying for it and the doctors would not let me fly, luckily my husband was able to stay with me thanks to our insurance. It was not the best of times and very hard for my family at home in the uk.

After 3 weeks I obtained a fit to fly certificate from the doctors there the insurance company rearranged our flights and flew us back business class. The hospital had a special department of clerical type people who dealt with patients from overseas but they were particularly useless to be fare and I think their biggest concern was having the medical bills paid. My husband had to organise an Uber to get us to the airport which was pretty difficult with my mobility problems, once at the airport -Newark we eventually got a wheelchair to get me through customs and to the gate - I would have crawled - I was just so desperate to ge home.

The flight was ok I was worried but kept telling myself I would be ok as I was stable and taking lots of medication to stop it happening again. once back in the uk I was met in arrivals by an ambulance and was taken straight to hospital where I was admitted through A&E and repatriated. I was admitted to the stroke unit where all my records were assessed and I was discharged home a few days later with a care package of community physio and Ot.

Things May be a little different for you as your spouse is a us citizen and it sounds like he will be discharged well before you need to fly back to the uk. Make sure that you have full copies of his medical records and also ensure that you have cd copies of any mri scans and good luck with recovery and your journey back to the uk.


Thanks so much for your reply and your input. That's a very good point you made about keeping all the medical records of scans etc. I shall certainly do that. It must have been really difficult and worrisome what was going to happen to you given that you had no medicare insurance. I trust that your recovery is now going well in the UK.

Hi Wendy, I will certainly inform the ailine about what has happened and to see what they can offer when I come to reschedule our flights. We were originally scheduled to travel to Chicago to visit friends but all that is now out of the window. My main objective is to ensure he gets as well as he can be for the journey home.

Thanks for your reply and useful suggestions. The stroke occured 27 August. I take your point about the pacemaker. We will have to monitor that. Also, future flying is up in the air at the moment, as they say! Very difficult to gauge at this stage what his condition will be in a month's time. He is progressing very well with his physio and OT but he is very tired. I am making sure he gets as much rest as he needs in between his therapy sessions. I realise it's going to be a long road and cannot be rushed especially given his age (88). We're just taking it one day at a time with the ultimate goal of getting back home uneventfully. 

Thankyou for your kind words, it was a very scary time, luckily for me recovery is going well.  Glad to hear my advice has helped and I hope things are and continue going ok for you both.

I used to work as flight cabin crew and my brother had a major stroke in my flat in France.  He was in hospital in Paris for just over 3 weeks and the hospital kept telling me that he had to leave.  No local rehab units would take him as they were overloaded. He was incontinent, hemiplegic & couldn’t even sit up properly!  I knew that my brother could fly back to his home on an island in the Mediterranean after 21 days ... European flights fly at lower altitudes than long haul flights and they are shorter.  Thus the risk of blood clots and other complications are much reduced (he was on blood thinners and other drugs of course). I decided we would have to get my brother home.  

The authorization to travel should be given by the docs in the USA.  Long haul flights are normally not advised before at least a month after a stroke.  

I paid for an ambulance to take myself and brother to the airport and to be met by the wheelchair service (this can be booked with all airlines and all airport authorities in the world). We were met on arrival at destination by an ambulance that I ordered and paid for and we went to the local hospital with all the medical records for them to act upon and get rehab organised.   

All airlines have a special medical dept which you can contact to describe the medical condition of your husband and they will give you medical approval to take a flight with them. You might like to do this as it will avoid any last minute refusals to embark on the airplane if anything comes up.  It costs nothing and is normally a formality. 

You should definitely take all medical records, scan, MRI test results with you and go to your UK hospital on arrival.  You can probably contact them beforehand as I did. 

I hope I have helped with this info... don’t worry too much about flying if the docs say it’s OK. Your husband seems in pretty good shape.  Lots of post stroke people have to fly home and the crew are medically trained to cope with any kind of problem, they have equipment and medication onboard and there is always a doc amongst the passengers.  I’m sure all will go fine for you!!   

All the best to you both.  




Thank you for your message and kind words, which I found very helpful and reassuring. This is the first post I have made since my spouse had his stroke. I forgot I had even registered with the forum until I received a message update just recently. Everything has been a real challenge to say the least.

We made it back to the UK despite our flight from Chicago had been cancelled at the last minute. Managed to get on another flight the same day but had to put up with economy when we had booked premium. It was the only option. The flight was fully booked. We did not want to stay overnight in a hotel. We just wanted to get home.

Ron is doing really well. He is now able to walk around the house and up the street and back. He is able to ride the exercise bike for about 10 mins every day as well as doing his physical therapy exercises twice a day. He is doing some household chores, though he is still experiencing an inability to name things and places. Not bad for what he's been through and given his age of 88.

How is your brother doing now? I trust he is feeling much better.

All our very best