ANN Sweeney sits up in her hospital bed in Limerick and strains her voice over the drip alarm, which constantly rings, above her head. Her 56-year-old body is wracked with gastroenteritis this week, but this is the least of the Cork woman's health issues.
In February of this year she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy and have a mastectomy.
The illness meant that she had to retire from her position as a clerical officer with the HSE and since then she had her husband, Jim, a retired garda, have lived their lives in a blur of hospital waiting rooms.
Ann was lucky enough to have private health insurance, but the endless trips to hospitals in Limerick and Cork and the trips to the GP took their toll financially and having been told in the hospital that she would certainly qualify, Ann applied for a medical card.
Her consultant oncologist wrote her a letter of support, as did her GP, and she submitted all of the necessary documentation relating to finances and income but there was no response from the HSE.
"I'd ring up and be put on hold for 20 minutes," the mother of two told the Sunday Independent.
"Mostly I wouldn't get speaking to anyone but when I did eventually get someone on the phone I'd be told that the application was at the bottom of the pile.
"Or I'd be told that the person who was supposed to be dealing with it was on holidays. My heart was broke from ringing them. The story seemed to change each time and you'd never be talking to the same person [in the HSE] again about it. It was always a new person."
Eventually, she received a letter from the HSE telling her that it needed further, fairly minimal financial information. She provided this and again was left waiting for an answer. Months later she still has no response.
Niall Collins, the Fianna Fail TD for Limerick heard about her plight and got involved in her case, but even this did not provoke a response from the HSE.
Today, Ann's application hangs in limbo and meanwhile the medical costs continue to rack up. She also needs specialist equipment for her bathroom, which she says will be unaffordable to her without the card.
Backlogs for medical card applications are nothing new but it seemed extraordinary, given her recent retirement from the HSE that she would be treated like this.
Surely, given her years of service, she might have known someone in service who could have expedited the response?
"Why should it work like that?" she responds.
"I am a normal person and I applied in the normal way. People have their jobs to do in there and I can't be expecting special treatment. I'm not asking for any more than I am entitled to."
Ann's treatment has gone well so far but she is not out of the woods yet. She has the steely determination of a survivor." This is a point of principle," she says.
"This has been a tough year and I've been messed around enough. No way am I letting this go."