Autistic boy, 15, and his mother are trapped in the Caribbean for THREE WEEKS after he had meltdown on plane and airlines refused to fly him him home: Family is rescued by Carnival Cruises who diverted their ship to pick them up and bring them home
- Jamie Greene and her boyfriend Carlos Pacheco left their home in Toms River, New Jersey, for a vacation with their three children on May 10
- The family of five were traveling to Aruba for a week, and on May 17 arrived at the airport to board their United Airlines flight back to Newark
- Greene’s son Elijah Kapatos, 15, who she described as having ‘low-functioning, non-verbal autism’, had an episode on the plane, and United refused to fly them
- Pacheco and their two younger children, aged 12 and 7, flew home on May 24 but no airline would take the teenager
- Greene’s friends and family fundraised for a medical evacuation flight, but that refused to take them: she made a desperate appeal on Facebook
- A charity, seeing her post, reached out and began making connections: Greene and her son eventually boarded a Carnival Cruise ship to Miami on June 5
- Greene and Elijah eventually returned home to New Jersey on Monday, having driven from the port in Miami with volunteers from autism charity Kulture City
An autistic teen and his mother were stranded in the Caribbean for three weeks after airlines refused to fly him home.
Jamie Greene set off from her home in Toms River, New Jersey – 50 miles east of Philadelphia – for a vacation in Aruba with her son Elijah Kapatos, 15, who has ‘low-functioning, non-verbal autism,’ as well as her two younger kids Brandon and Brice, aged seven and 12, and her boyfriend Carlos Pacheco.
The family of five had flown to Disney last year, without any event – and enjoyed their week-long vacation.
But when they arrived at Oranjestad Airport, Aruba, for their return flight to Newark, on United Airlines, on May 17, Elijah became startled.
Jamie Greene is seen with her son Elijah Kapatos (far right), boyfriend Carlos Pacheco (far left), and their two children Brandon and Brice, aged 12 and seven. The family were reunited on Monday after an eventful month
Elijah, 15, is pictured on the Carnival Cruises ship that took him from Aruba to Miami, after he and his mother were stranded in Aruba
The teenager stopped at the doorway and began to scream ‘toilet,’ explained Pacheco – which was his way of saying something was wrong.
‘I gave him gentle nudge and we made it to our seats, then he lost control,’ Pacheco told NJ.com.
‘He refused to sit, and Jamie and I had to hold him down.
Greene, a mother of three, said it was scandalous that airlines were unable to accommodate those with invisible disabilities, like her son
‘Something caused him to be overwhelmed, and he began to hit his mother and me and continued screaming.’
The captain of the flight said they needed to disembark, and so the five of them left the plane.
Elijah was given his emergency medicine, but it failed to calm him.
‘You think you have all your ducks in a row, Elijah’s flown before, we have sedation medicine on hand just in case and we made it to Aruba without incident,’ Greene explained on Facebook.
‘On the flight home, he became scared and violent and we were asked to leave the plane. What we didn’t know was there is no policy in place for when this kind of situation arises.’
Greene and Pacheco then contacted an emergency medical evacuation company, but they were unable to help.
‘Even the U.S. Consulate in Aruba ran out of ideas, and I had to get our two other children back to school at Toms River, so Brandon, Brice, and I flew back,’ Pacheco said, saying they returned home on May 24.
Elijah is seen on the deck of Carnival’s ship, taking him back to the U.S.
Elijah and his mother, Jamie Greene, spent almost a month away from home, having left for a week
Greene and the teenager remained on the island, posting desperate appeals for help on social media.
One of their messages was seen by Julian Maha, an ER physician and the Alabama-based founder of KultureCity, which helps those with nonverbal disabilities like PTSD, strokes and autism.
He got in touch with his contacts at Carnival Cruises, and the company agreed to redirect one of their ships to pick Greene and Elijah up.
‘It takes a family,’ he said on Facebook.
The pair left Aruba on June 5, bound for Miami.
On arrival in Florida, two KultureCity volunteers drove them home to New Jersey – where they arrived on Monday.
‘It’s hard to describe the last month – it’s heartbreaking, sad and beautiful all wrapped up into one,’ wrote Greene on Facebook.
‘It’s strength, and panic and support.’
Greene told NJ.com that the system needed to change, so no other family was abandoned like they were.
‘Policies have to change. I understand that airlines must follow safety protocols, but something like this should have never happened,’ Greene said.
‘Airlines should treat invisible disabilities the same way they treat visible disabilities.
‘Invisible disabilities include autism, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, anxiety, ADHD, strokes and other mental health challenges.’
She added: ‘We never thought this could happen to us. We now plan to be involved with KultureCity and the autism community.
‘I’m seeing the silver lining, just the chance that a policy might change as a result of our story is enough for me.’
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