Family's relief as hospital bed found for grandfather taken ill in Portugal

By Megan Archer | Wolverhampton | Health | Published:

A grandfather taken ill hours after landing in Portugal on holiday will finally fly back to Wolverhampton tomorrow after a three-week ordeal to bring him home.

John Lees

Eighty-one-year-old John Lees, from Compton, near Wolverhampton, jetted off to Madeira with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren for a week-long break.

But he suffered a brain haemorrhage shortly after landing and was taken into hospital - where he remained with his family at his bedside for three weeks.


Mr Lees is covered by travel insurance and the family have secured his transfer home via air ambulance.

But relatives could not fly home home until they had secured him a hospital bed which they were struggling to find.

Daughter-in-law Helen Lees started a social media campaign using the hashtag #bringjohnhome to try and raise awareness of his situation.

The appeal attracted wide attention with well-wishers and politicians all offering to help.

Earlier this week Helen said: “We don’t have time to wait for a bed, we need to get John home into the UK to give him the dignity this man deserves so much. He is for those who know him one of life’s most special humans, loved by many.”


Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital initially said it had no intensive care beds available but today confirmed one had become available.

And Helen said the entire family were “thrilled” that Mr Lees would be coming home.

The air ambulance is due to fly him straight to New Cross on Thursday.

Speaking to the Express & Star, she added: “We are absolutely thrilled and so grateful to everyone, for everything they have done.


“It’s bitter-sweet really as the problems don’t go away when we get home but at least we’ll be at home.

"We’re delighted that we’re at New Cross too as that’s our local hospital.”


John Lees has lived in Wolverhampton all his life – his family call him a “legend” and say they “absolutely adore him”.

He owns his own business A&J Tyre Service in Willenhall, with his son Andrew, and still goes there every day, despite being 81.

Married to wife Judy for 57 years, the couple have two children and three grandchildren.

Helen added: “This was going to be our last family holiday as of course he’s getting on a bit, and we’re concerned about his health.

“So we made sure his insurance was all in place – he was covered for everything. But two hours after landing he was very unwell.

“I thought he was having a heart attack but it was actually a brain haemorrhage.”

Gwen Nuttall, chief operating officer at New Cross, said: “We can confirm that we have a bed available for Mr Lees.”

As well as the social media campaign, mother-of-two Helen said the family also enlisted the help of Mr Lees’ MP Eleanor Smith in their bid to bring him back to the Black Country.

Megan Archer

By Megan Archer
Chief Reporter - @MeganA_Star

Chief Reporter with the Express & Star. Give me a call on 01902 319363 or email

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