Group 28

2022-09-17 12:17:24 By : Ms. Lily Lee

Shaun Gash, who is paralysed from the chest down, lost a bag of vital medical equipment on a flight from Manchester Airport

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A wheelchair user who is paralysed from the chest down was told to 'go to a pharmacy' after a bag of medical supplies went missing on an EasyJet flight from Manchester Airport.

Shaun Gash has used a wheelchair for 31 years after being in a car crash which left him paralysed from the chest down. The 51-year-old says his disability isn't an issue for him and over the years hasn't gotten in the way of his career, LancsLive reports.

Shaun works for a global manufacturer and supplier of wheelchairs for sports and active lifestyles- RGK Wheelchairs. As an international representative, he says travel is a big part of his life, jetting off to several countries in a single week.

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Flying multiple times a week has become second nature to the wheelchair specialist, particularly when it comes to travelling with medical equipment. Shaun requires the use of intermittent catheters to drain his bladder daily - without the constant stock he carries with him, he says he would be required to stop drinking to avoid an accident.

The catheters are used several times a day - similarly to how often people would use toilet facilities. Shaun says he has always split his luggage between check-in bags and carry-on bags to ensure he has a supply of necessary equipment with him.

However, the 'one and only time' he chose not to, all of his medical luggage was lost. Shaun was due to head to Northern Ireland for short work trip, flying from Manchester Airport on Monday (September 12) to Belfast International Airport, via an EasyJet flight.

The flight was only expected to be 40 minutes long- the reason why Shaun decided to keep everything in one larger bag. After a smooth check in, when he arrived in Belfast, Shaun exited the plane only to find his bag wasn't there.

"On this one occasion I was only flying to Belfast, which is only 40 minutes away so I didn't think anything of it I just thought it was fine, it'd be okay, what could possibly go wrong," He said.

"When we landed in Belfast I was assisted off the plane - by the airport staff - got into a wheelchair and they took me through to baggage and the baggage wasn't there. It wasn't just me there was like five other families that didn't have their baggage so the guy [airport assistant] said we need to go to Swissport."

Swissport is a Swiss aviation service company that provides airport ground, lounge hospitality and cargo handling services. Shaun says no other help or guidance was given to him by the airport staff and found that the Swissport desk only opened at 9am leaving him and the other passengers to wait for an additional half an hour.

All passengers, including Shaun were required to fill in forms to start the process of reclaiming their luggage. After undergoing the necessary checks, Shaun says he attempted to explain the severity of his situation to the member of Swissport staff.

"I just said, 'Look you know the bag that's not there, it's got medical equipment in with my catheters'. I'm not bothered about the clothes and toiletries it's more the fact that I haven't got any medical equipment, because I didn't think something like this would happen," Shaun said.

"He told me it's the airline's fault for not putting the bag on on the on the aeroplane so I asked 'What do I need to do now, what can I do?' He said, 'You need to go to a pharmacy'- I told him it's a catheter so it's not like going to get paracetamol or something, it's actually medically specific equipment that I actually need and then he just said well you need to go to the hospital.

"I was panicking, I was worried and I was frustrated because I was trying to explain to the guy what it was I needed, and what the catheters are all about. He had no idea, he wasn't understanding he was just more interested in getting this form filled out and basically said we'll send you an email and that was it for me it was like okay, right so what am I going to do?"

Arrangements had already been made for a member of the Health Care 21 team in Northern Ireland- where he would go for work- to pick Shaun up from the airport. Until this point, Shaun was alone and started thinking about the prospect of having to go back home but Aiden, the HC21 team member told Shaun his job was located at a hospital.

Without any further help in the airport, Shaun left empty handed with Aiden. Luck was on his side as hospital staff were able to provide Shaun with his vital medical supplies for the rest of his stay but he says the entire situation could have been a lot worse had his job not been located within a hospital.

"I mean, I know it was a short space of time, which I'm really fortunate about but it was the case of one - if I hadn't been working with the healthcare professionals in the hospital, I wouldn't have known where to go to get the catheters I needed, and two - the attitude from the individual was so flippant that it was he didn't really understand what I was trying to explain."

"I had followed the procedures with EasyJet and all I kept on getting from EasyJet was 'you need to follow this procedure'. Basically, you go online, and then you fill out a form which is what I did and then they sent me a text [with a number] to contact, so I've contacted this number and then all they did was say 'you need to go back online and complete the form' so I had no contact with anybody via phone.

"Before Aiden came, all I kept on thinking was I'm gonna have to get the next flight home because I can't stay here with with no medical equipment. I literally cannot go without having any fluids because it's not good for you anyway, but also to empty my bladder.

"My other concern was, I might have an accident, I'm 51-years-old to actually have an accident in your chair is embarrassing at the best of times. So that's all going through my head as well and all I could think of was just the worst case scenario - it was more I wasn't able to drink, wasn't able to take anything, so I was parched.

"My head was everywhere and that's not like me because I'm usually quite a level headed guy. I just thought all I could see was the worst case scenario was going to happen with infection, you know, because of bladder or I'll end up having an accident I didn't have a change of clothes in case I had an accident."

Around 9:30pm that same night, Shaun was told his bags had been found and were ready for him to be picked up at the airport but as he was already due to fly back the next decided to go back for it then. After a stressful day, Shaun says this is another example of how important it is for big companies to do better.

He said: "Empathy goes a long way. I don't want you to understand what it's like being in a chair, but I want you to have a little bit of empathy towards you know, my emotions and what I might go through.

"I could understand if a bag was lost and there was nothing important in it- there is always important things in the bag but it was more the fact that it was my medical necessities that was a key thing. If I wasn't out there working with a healthcare company, then I would have been I would have been stuck, permanently stuck because I wouldn't have known what to do.

"I wouldn't know which hospitals I need to go where they prepared to take me to the hospital in order to get my stuff. It literally was it wasn't any of that so there's no understanding or support whatsoever.

"This is the first time it's ever happened to me and I can laugh about it now, but at that time, it literally was a panic, it was the fact that I needed to get my medical equipment more than anything."

A Swissport spokesperson said: “We are sorry to hear about what happened and did our best to support this passenger under the circumstances.”

A spokesperson for EasyJet said: “We are very sorry for the loss of Mr Gash’s bag. We understand how important it is for passengers have their essential medical equipment with them which is why we advise passengers ahead of travel to carry this in their cabin luggage and we allow passengers to carry an additional bag for essential portable medical equipment free of charge. We are sorry if Mr Gash was not clear on this and for the frustration this has caused.

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