Saturday, August 6, 2022

Gaby Assouline: Florida woman paralyzed after being denied wheelchair assistance at airport

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Assouline suffered a head injury after being thrown from her wheelchair and later went into cardiac arrest, knocking her unconscious for a while

Gabrielle “Gaby” Assouline, 24, was paralyzed from the neck down after an accident allegedly caused by the negligence of Southwest employees. Her family is now suing Southwest Airlines and ground handling company G2 Secure Staff. Gaby suffers from fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), a rare genetic disease that causes bone to develop in areas where you would normally find muscle or ligaments.

In February of this year, Gaby Assouline was traveling from Florida to Denver on Southwest Airlines and was denied boarding assistance on her way down the corridor at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The Southwest warden did not provide her with additional assistance with her wheelchair and she was forced to navigate the jetway on her own. She sustained a head injury after being thrown from her wheelchair and later went into cardiac arrest, knocking her unconscious for a while. Gaby also survived multiple spinal cord injuries from the horrific accident.

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Her mother, Sandra Assouline, set up a GoFundMe page to raise $1,200,000 for her treatment, after which she will require “a lifetime of recovery.” They have raised $113,610 from nearly a thousand donations so far. Gaby is currently unable to speak as several tubes are attached to her neck to stabilize her. After the accident, in which her vertebrae were broken, she needs a feeding tube. Her devastated family has since filed charges against the airlines in Broward County Court in Florida.

In her GoFundMe post, Sandra wrote that the treatment requires a renovation of Gaby’s current living space and the family is suing the airlines for the physical and mental harm she caused. “Since her accident she has had major surgery to repair the broken vertebrae in her spine, one procedure to insert a tracheostomy and another to place a pacemaker in her heart to make sure it doesn’t stop beating ‘ her mother added. After leaving the hospital, Gaby needs to be transferred to a rehabilitation facility to help her adjust to her current state of health. Before her accident, she took online classes and was a “disability advocate”.

An airline spokesman said Southwest “will continue to work with the customer and other stakeholders to investigate and address the facts and circumstances surrounding the travel experience.” He also assured them that the safety of their passengers remains their priority and Gaby’s complaint has been “reviewed”.

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Gaby’s mother also mentioned that they had already requested reasonable accommodation for their trip and were suing G2 Secure Staff, the company responsible for providing wheelchair escorts at the airport.

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