A six-year-old girl saved her mother’s life after she spotted she was having a stroke on a plane – caused by the take off.
Alexandra Hajipaulis, 39, was on a Ryanair flight to Crete with her daughter Jaideen when she suffered an ischemic stroke.
It is thought to have been caused by a bubble of air in a vein which travelled up to her brain when the air pressure changed during the plane’s ascent.
Brave Jaideen noticed her mum was unconscious and alerted an air hostess.
Thankfully, a doctor sitting behind Alex recognised her symptoms as a stroke and ordered staff to land the plane, where she was then rushed to hospital in a coma.
Alex, from Wolverhampton, is now paralysed completely in both legs and her left arm – but is grateful that her little girl’s swift actions saved her life.
Her mother Lorna Hajipaulis, 66, has moved back to the UK from Crete to care for her daughter and two grandchildren full time.
Alex said: “Jaideen saved my life – she knew something was wrong, she got me help even though she was only six years old at the time, I’m so proud of her.”
Before her stroke, museum worker Alex was a happy and healthy mother of two living in Wolverhampton.
On 17 July 2018, she boarded a plane to visit her mother Lorna at her home in Crete, Greece, taking her Jaideen with her.
Halfway into the flight, Alex collapsed in her seat – leaving her six year old daughter to alert an air hostess to her unconscious mother.
The flight made an emergency stop in Italy where Alex was rushed to hospital immediately from the airport in a coma.
She underwent hemicraniectomy surgery the next day where a large flap of the skull is removed and the dura is opened to give space for the swollen brain to bulge, reducing the intracranial pressure.
The young mum was then in a coma for 10 days while Lorna travelled to Italy.
Lorna said: “I heard from Alex that she’d boarded the plane and then just a few hours later, someone rang me from the hospital to say she’d had a stroke.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but before I knew it, I was on the next flight to Italy and racing to the hospital.
“We didn’t know if she’d pull through, and everybody was speaking Italian and telling us it was going to cost thousands to save Alex.
“I had to reach out to relatives and even set up a GoFundMe page to raise the £25,000 needed to get Alex home to the UK.
“Alex didn’t have the right kind of insurance that would cover what happened to her, and so we had to suddenly raise all this money to get her home safe.”
Alex’s stroke is thought to have been caused by an air embolism secondary to a bronchogenic cyst.
This is where a previously undetected lung cyst ruptures inside the body due to air pressure rapidly changing, such as in a plane or a submarine.
The rupture of the cyst causes an air embolism to travel to the brain and leads to sufferers experiencing either a stroke or a coma.
Alex spent a month in the hospital in Italy before she was repatriated to ITU at Queen Elizabeth Hospital on 13 August 2018.
Due to the nature of her stroke, Alex’s flight home had to be at a lower level than normal to reduce the chances of her having another stroke.
She stayed at the hospital for six weeks before she was moved to a rehab centre in Wolverhampton in October 2018.
Lorna then moved Alex home for nine months before she was offered a place at a care home in September this year, where she remains.
“The stroke has completely changed my life – it’s ruined my life,” Alex said.
“I can’t walk any more, I’m stuck in bed, I can’t work, I miss being a mum to my girls.
“Before this happened to me, I was having two showers a day, but I haven’t even had one since my stroke and that was 17 months ago.
“I was completely unconscious on the plane and then for the whole time I was in Italy so I can’t remember what happened.
“I didn’t even speak until six weeks after my stroke, I was completely out of it.”
Lorna added: “Alex has been left feeling disabled and suicidal following her stroke and the care she has received.
“It’s been 17 months since Alex had her stroke and she’s deteriorating both physically and mentally rather than being on the road to recovery.
“The care homes that she has stayed at haven’t had the facilities needed to wash someone of Alex’s size properly, so she hasn’t had a bath or shower in a year and a half.
“She’s only getting under an hour of daily physiotherapy Monday to Friday where she’s staying right now and it’s just not enough to help get her back on her feet which is what she wants to do.
“I did pay for some private physiotherapy which was amazing, we couldn’t afford to keep it going although I wish we could have.
“I just want someone to help my daughter, she’s just been left to suffer after her stroke and I’m so angry to see her being reduced to living like this.
“Alex is a 40 year old woman with two daughters, she just wants to go home and be a mum to her children again and go back to work so she can be a contributing member of society, but she can’t do that.
“The stroke has completely changed my daughter’s life and I’m angry that she has not received the help she needs which is affecting her mental health massively.
“It seems that if you’re under 40 and you have a stroke, you just get stuck in a home and forgotten about – I’m sure Alex isn’t the only one to have experienced this.
“We just want someone to help her. Alex doesn’t like being like this, she wants to work, she still has feeling in her legs, she just needs help.
“We are convinced that with the right physiotherapy, Alex could walk again – that’s all we want to happen.”