Chloe Sullivan was expecting a Caribbean getaway with her family before the birth of her second child. Instead, it was a nightmare.

As the New York Post reports, the pregnant mom from Kent, England, went to the Dominican Republic with fiancé Michael Parrott and her 4-year-old daughter. The idea was to enjoy a family vacation in before welcoming her son.

Baby Arlo and his Parents
Screenshot/GoFundMe

But on October 13, Sullivan started feeling unwell.

“Chloe noticed something unusual down below and spoke with a midwife who advised her to go straight to hospital,” Parrott’s cousin, Harry Cottam, wrote on GoFundMe.

At International Medical Group, a private hospital in Punta Cana, Sullivan was given bad news and a bill almost immediately. The couple was told they needed to pay a deposit before any treatment. They paid, but they warned the hospital they wouldn’t be able to pay for anything that wasn’t covered by their insurance.

Cottam wrote that the hospital knew the travel insurance wouldn’t cover any future costs but “did not give Chloe and Michael the opportunity to leave and said they needed to operate immediately.”

Sullivan was rushed into surgery for an emergency cesarean section and gave birth to baby Arlo on the morning of October 14. The baby was taken directly to the neonatal ward before either of his parents had the chance to spend time with him.

Less than 24 hours later, doctors told the worried parents that Arlo was having respiratory issues and persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN). On the morning of October 15, Arlo died.

The grieving parents wanted to return home to the U.K. with their son, but that’s when the hospital let them know that no one was going anywhere.

“The hospital threatened to dispose of [Arlo’s] body unless they could make a payment of $3650 the same day as his death, to get him to funeral directors,” Cottam wrote.

Sullivan’s father helped them make that payment, but there was more to come. Though the hospital had originally told the couple that the surgery would cost about $11,000, they now refused to let anyone leave unless the entire bill of $20,991.12 was paid.

Cottam wrote that neither Sullivan nor Parrott had that kind of money, but they tried to work with the hospital:

Chloe and Michael asked if they would allow them to pay in installments and the hospital refused, keeping them in a room surrounded by security and police. Chloe’s four year old daughter was with them the whole time, I can’t imagine how scared she must have felt.

The hospital threatened to contact Interpol if the family did not hand over their passports (so they wouldn’t be able to leave the country). When the family contacted the British Embassy, they were told to pay the bill because the embassy couldn’t get involved.

Sullivan tried to argue that the hospital should have advised them about the additional expense.

According to Cottam, the hospital said: “‘We saved your life, you should be grateful.’ They then went on to dismiss the life and death of baby Arlo and told them to ‘try again.'”

In desperation, the family surrendered the passports so they could return to the hotel. They then reached out to friends and family for help. Fortunately, a GoFundMe campaign raised enough to pay the debt and allowed the family to leave the Dominican Republic.

Sullivan posted a thank you to everyone who donated to the crowdfunding campaign.

“In a very dark and hard time you have helped to shine a little ray of light and given us the breathing space to start to grieve for our son,” she wrote. “I honestly do not know how we will ever repay you. Just thank you so so much. We are eternally grateful and forever in your debt.”

Though vacations before the arrival of a new baby (called “babymoons”) are increasingly popular, the pregnancy website What to Expect offers some guidelines for parents planning a babymoon. They emphasize making the trip during the second trimester (many airlines have restrictions about travel in the later weeks of pregnancy) and keeping travel arrangements as low-stress as possible.

In addition, it’s a good idea to book the vacation in a locale where everyone speaks English (or where you’re fluent in the local language) so that there’s no chance of a language barrier if you need medical help.

Finally, research the medical facilities and options near your hotel. Find out what medical services will be available, where the closest hospital is, and what is (and isn’t) covered by travel insurance. Then bring your OB-GYN or midwife into the loop with the details and be sure to have their contact information with you in case of an emergency.

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