A makeshift ambulance carrying a British woman returning from life-saving surgery in Spain was searched for almost four hours on her return to the UK by Border Force.
Rachel Pighills, 36, was left on a stretcher while Border Force officials stripped down the van transporting her back to the UK. She claimed Border Force accused her and her husband of smuggling drugs.
She was held up at Plymouth for three and a half hours while a search was carried out. Border Force officials found nothing unusual.
Images taken of the search show Mrs Pighills in tears on a stretcher while connected to an oxygen tank inside a warehouse at the docks.
Her husband, Guy, 41, said the couple were "treated like criminals".
Mrs Pighills, a mother-of-one from Worcestershire, was left at risk of being "internally decapitated" after a freak ceiling fan accident.
The couple had just moved into a new home in August 2018 when the blades hit her on the back of the head.
The impact left her with atlantoaxial instability and basilar invagination - meaning her brain was sinking into her spine.
It meant she could no longer turn her head because her spine would partially dislocate, increasing the risk of paralysis or death.
The couple have spent nearly four years trying to raise £215,000 for pioneering surgery which is not available on the NHS.
They finally reached the milestone earlier this year thanks to a woman in her 60s from Warwickshire who loaned them £130,000.
After being told it was too risky for Rachel to travel to Barcelona by plane for the operation, Mr Pighills drove his wife 1,055 miles in a second-hand ambulance.
The 13-and-a-half-hour surgery on 20 May involved inserting metal rods into her spine and resetting the position of her skull and brain stem.
The operation was a success and after almost four weeks in hospital, the couple drove back to the UK on 17 June.
But after a 20-hour overnight ferry from Santander to Plymouth, they were stopped by Border Force officials.
Officials finally let the couple, who have a 14-year-old daughter, continue their homeward journey after their search.
Mrs Pighills is now recovering at home from her operation.
“After all we’ve been through, after the operation we were so looking forward to coming home," she said.
“When we arrived in Plymouth, Border Force literally leapt on our vehicle and accused us of being drug smugglers.
“I couldn’t believe it. We had all the documentation but they wouldn’t listen. One of them was really rude and looked quite disappointed when they couldn’t find anything.
“Bizarrely, neither the sniffer dog or the officials found the big bag of opiates and painkillers I’d been given by the clinic.”
Mr Pighills, an operations manager who had been forced to drive at just 40mph on the journey home to avoid any sudden movements, said: "We got spotted by Border Control and they stripped our ambulance to pieces.
"They stripped the panels, took the air panels off and shoved a camera everywhere and they found nothing.
"It was horrendous, it was painful for Rachel and it has affected her recovery and set her back.
"They asked her to get off the stretcher but we wanted her to stay which made them suspicious that we were trying to hide something.
"They made us wheel Rachel off the ambulance and bless her, she was screaming her head off when she was going down and then they stripped the ambulance and this affected her breathing and her oxygen levels due to the stress that this caused her.
"They made us wheel the luggage off. We took months' worth of Rachel's medication but the dog didn't even find that.
"As soon as we propped her up and they could see the dressing all down her back the mood changed. But we didn't get an apology. It was the most traumatic experience I've ever been through."
The couple are raising money to pay back the £130,000 loan through a GoFundMe page.
Yahoo News UK has contacted the Home Office, which is responsible for Border Force, for comment.