Huge Cruise Ship Alters Route To Collect Boy Who Airline Refused To Fly
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Featured Image Credit: Facebook/Jamie Greene
An autistic teenager was able to return safely to the US after a cruise ship changed its route and collected the 15-year-old from the Caribbean island he was stranded on with his mum.
Elijah Kapatos was enjoying a holiday in Aruba with his mum Jamie Greene, her boyfriend Carlos Pacheco and his two siblings Brandon, 7, and Brice, 12.
However, when the family boarded their United Airlines flight home to New Jersey on 17 May, Elijah – who is autistic – had a ‘meltdown’ and was asked to get off the aircraft.
It would be weeks until Jamie and Elijah made it back home.
Speaking to NJ.com, Carlos explained that after Elijah’s ‘sensory episode’ they administered him emergency medicine, but it didn’t help.
Stuck on an island 2,000 miles from home, Jamie and Carlos were dismayed when a medical evacuation company also turned down their call for help.
On 24 May, Carlos flew home with Brandon and Brice so they could return to school, leaving Elijah and Jamie behind.
Eventually, Julian Maha, a medic who runs KultureCity – a charity that helps people with invisible disabilities – got in touch and was able to convince Carnival Cruises to redirect a ship and pick Elijah and Jamie up.
The ship took them to Miami, where they arrived on 5 June, and two KultureCity volunteers then drove Elijah and Jamie all the way to New Jersey.
Reflecting on his family’s ordeal, Carlos said: “We had gone on many vacations driving, and Elijah had never had any issues.
“We flew to Disney last year, and he enjoyed the plane ride and even the rollercoasters there. Nothing seemed to startle him, so we felt it was safe to go to Aruba.”
Carlos also went into detail about Elijah’s ‘sensory episode’, saying: “I gave him a gentle nudge [when we boarded the plane] and we made it to our seats, then he lost control.
“He refused to sit, and Jamie and I had to hold him down. Something caused him to be overwhelmed, and he began to hit [Jamie] and me and continued screaming.”
Writing on Facebook about her family’s whirlwind month, Jamie said: “It’s hard to describe the last month – it’s heartbreaking, sad and beautiful all wrapped up into one. It’s strength, and panic and support.”
As for United Airlines’ response to her son’s meltdown, the doting mother added: “Airlines should treat invisible disabilities the same way they treat visible disabilities.”
UNILAD has approached United Airlines for comment.
If you've been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact Scope via their website, via email, or on 0808 800 3333. The line is open 9am-6pm Monday to Fridays, and 10am-6pm Saturdays and Sundays