Photo Credit: Photo by Miguel Angel Sanz
Southwest Airlines Sued After Staff Refused To Help Passenger In Wheelchair Which Resulted In Paralysis
Southwest Airlines landed in hot water after a terrible and preventable accident in February left a passenger paralyzed. A lawsuit is pending.
Gabrielle “Gaby” Assouline, who used a wheelchair due to a rare medical condition, was about to fly to Colorado from Florida. She asked Southwest staff to push her wheelchair down a jet bridge, but they refused. When she tried to cross the bridge herself, tragedy struck. She flew out of the wheelchair, landed on her head and cracked her vertebrae.
Gaby is paralyzed from the neck down and her medical bills are mounting daily. To try and offset them, her mother Sandra set up a Go Fund Me. It mentions that Gaby lives with “an extremely rare condition called Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP).”
The disease causes muscles and tendons to turn to bone and compromises mobility over time. It has no known cause or cure, and the earliest sign is an abnormal curve of the big toe, otherwise known as a valgus deformity.
Sandra explained that her daughter went into cardiac arrest after the accident. She also underwent intubation “immediately after being resuscitated.”
Gaby is unable to speak or otherwise communicate, except for some eye movements. Her mother observed “fear and pain” in her daughter’s eyes during occasional periods of clarity.
Gaby underwent surgery to fix the broken vertebrae. She also had a pacemaker put in and a tracheostomy. Sandra said the accident triggered arrhythmia, which “causes the heart to stop half a dozen times in a week.”
It’s an enormous amount for anybody to shoulder, let alone a woman in the springtime of life. Gaby is only 24, and didn’t let FOP get in the way of making art and gardening.
The Dallas Morning News stated, “the lawsuit demands Southwest pay for the physical and mental damages suffered. [Gaby] will likely need occupational, speech, physical, psychological and many other therapies.”
In response, a Southwest Airlines spokesperson said that safety is a top priority. They added, “we have reviewed the customer’s initial account of her travel experience and have offered a response directly to those involved.”