Who is Gaby Assouline? Woman left paralyzed after being denied wheelchair support by Southwest
Gabrielle "Gaby" Assouline, 24, was left paralyzed from the neck down following an accident allegedly instigated by the negligence of Southwest staffers. 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 the development of bones in areas where you usually find muscles or ligaments.
In February this year, Gaby Assouline was traveling from Florida to Denver with Southwest Airlines and was denied assistance on her way through the corridor while boarding at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The Southwest supervisor did not grant her additional help with her wheelchair, and she was forced to navigate the jet bridge on her own. She suffered a head injury after being ejected from her wheelchair and later suffered a cardiac arrest that left her unconscious for a while. Gaby also survived several spinal cord injuries from the horrific accident.
Her mother Sandra Assouline has set up a GoFundMe page to raise $1,200,000 for her treatment, following which she will require a "life-long recovery". They have raised $113,610 from almost one thousand donations so far. Gaby is unable to speak as of now since several tubes are attached to her throat to stabilize her. She needs a feeding tube after the accident that also cracked her vertebrae. Her devastated family has since filed charges against the airlines in Broward County Court, Florida.
On her GoFundMe post, Sandra wrote how the treatment necessitates renovating Gaby's current living space, and the family is suing the airlines because of the physical and mental damage they have caused. "Since her accident, she has had major surgery to fix the broken vertebrae in her spine, a procedure to put a tracheostomy in, and another to place a pacemaker in her heart to make sure it doesn't stop beating," her mother added. Gaby will have to be moved to a rehabilitation facility after leaving the hospital to help her adjust to her current medical state. Before her accident, she took classes online and was an "advocate for people with disabilities".
A spokesperson for the airline has said that Southwest "will continue to work with the customer and other parties involved to investigate and address the facts and circumstances relating to the travel experience." He also assured them that their passengers' safety remained a priority for them and Gaby's complaint had been "reviewed".
Gaby's mother also mentioned that they had already asked for adequate arrangements for her travel and were suing G2 Secure Staff, the company responsible for providing wheelchair escorts at the airport.