Tourist: Doctors told me I was poisoned at Dominican Republic resort

National and World

A Canadian woman says she still feels the effects of her visit to the Dominican Republic

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(CNN) – Their story sounds similar to others — a dream trip to the Dominican Republic that ended in serious illness.

The trouble for Tina and John Hammell started when they woke from a nap by a powerful chemical smell in their hotel room.

“It was so strong that I was burning and coughing, and it was very upsetting,” Tina said. “But, just panic sets in because you don’t know where the smell is coming from.”

Tina had lost her voice and felt nauseous. The couple moved rooms, but Tina’s health kept getting worse.

Tina said she knew that something wasn’t right and wanted to call a doctor. She said things quickly progressed.

“I remember my muscles, my hands all turned in and my legs came up, I just was spasming, and I lost consciousness,” she said.

She spent four nights in a hospital in the Dominican Republic, where doctors found lesions on her lungs, according to hospital records.

“My wife was still having a hard time, basically breathing, staying alive,” John said.

“She just kept having these convulsions, and they just kept sticking needles into her… You don’t want to lose anybody, especially your wife and your children, and there was nothing I could do,” John recalled.

It has been three years now, but Tina says she still has lingering effects. She does not know what made her sick.

All that her doctors in Canada can tell her is that something she encountered in the Dominican Republic could have poisoned her.

“I never had a breathing problem before, I never had asthma, I never smoked. You know, we were healthy,” Tina said.

The Grand Bahia Punta Cana Hotel where the Hammels stayed is run by the same company that operates the Grand Bahia La Romana where the recent mysterious deaths of three American tourists are under investigation.

CNN has spoken to a dozen tourists, like the Hammells, who have gotten extremely sick while on vacation in the Dominican Republic.

Many who spoke to CNN believe their symptoms go beyond typical travel-related illnesses, though it’s unclear what caused them.

Several report smelling a strong, chemical odor in their rooms before getting sick.

Many say they suffered stomach cramps, diarrhea and malaise that lasted after they returned home.

CNN previously reported the case of Kaylynn Knull and her boyfriend, Tom Schwander, who both fell ill after smelling chemicals in their room at Bahia La Romana in 2017.

According to medical records, their doctors in Colorado think they were exposed to organophosphates, toxic chemicals found in pesticides that poisoned them.

“The abdominal cramping and the GI upset lasted for a couple a few weeks,” Schwander said.

Schwander also reported sweating, feeling dizzy, nauseous and experiencing cramping.

“The abdominal cramping was the worst. That was the hardest symptom to deal with. It was just so much pain,” he said.

Bahia Principe Hotels and Resorts says it can’t comment on specific allegations but did send a statement to CNN saying, “The safety and comfort of our guests and staff stand at the core of our company values,” and that, “We regularly audit all hotels, in respect to health and safety and consistently receive high certification scores for hygiene.”

A U.S. State Department official says the U.S. is closely monitoring the investigations underway and that includes assistance from the FBI.

Toxicology testing could take up to 30 days, but for now, the U.S. official says there has not been an uptick in the reported number of U.S. citizens dying in the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Republic’s ministry of health said deaths of American tourists are actually down this year, and the country is safe.

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