London - When Nicola Colenso’s disabled daughter suffered a “meltdown” on a packed holiday jet, she expected some sympathy from her fellow passengers.
Instead, her struggles to calm eight-year-old Yasmin were met with a torrent of abuse from a woman sitting in front who accused her of spoiling her “beauty sleep”, she claimed.
When Miss Colenso and her partner Rick Murray politely explained that their daughter had the rare neurological condition Sturge-Weber Syndrome, they were allegedly subjected to a further rant.
The distraught mother’s furious Facebook post about the incident – accompanied by a photograph of the passenger – subsequently went viral with more than 60 000 people sharing it, with many of them saying they could relate to her anguish.
They were aboard a two hour and 20 minute Jet2 flight returning to Manchester Airport following a break in Ibiza with their four children when Yasmin became distressed.
As the couple tried to calm her down, a nearby female passenger in her mid-20s allegedly turned round and said: “Shut that child up!”
Despite their explanations about Yasmin’s condition, they claim she angrily said the noise had “gone on long enough and I’m sick of it. Can’t you shut her up?”
The couple say they were berated and Mr Murray, 50, a full time carer for Yasmin, was branded a “p****” by the woman – apparently travelling alone – for not keeping his daughter quiet. The family say they had to call an ambulance to rush Yasmin to hospital hours after Saturday’s flight when her condition worsened and her lips turned blue.
Miss Colenso, from Northwich, Cheshire, posted her ordeal and a photo of the woman on social media in a bid to raise awareness about the difficulties that children with disabilities face when travelling.
Her post reads: “Dear Lady on the Manchester bound flight from Ibiza yesterday!
“We are sorry our daughter stopped you from getting your beauty sleep but clearly she was having a meltdown and was not feeling 100 percent.
“As you felt the need to turn round and ask us to ‘Shut that child up!’ This didn’t help her anxiety levels or ours in trying to manage the situation.
“I hope social media helps this post to find you to let you know that same little eight year old girl ended up being taken to hospital by ambulance that evening as she became seriously unwell.
“Maybe you managed to get a good night sleep?”
Miss Colenso, 44, branded the experience “horrible” and said the woman had shown no compassion.
“The only thing she seemed to care about was that she could hear what was going on,” she said.
“We remained calm and didn’t react to what she said as keeping Yasmin calm was our priority and we just wanted to get her home. But afterwards I really wanted to raise awareness so it doesn’t happen to others who are in the same situation.
“Not all disabilities are visible so they shouldn’t just presume. They don’t have to deal with it like this. They could offer support.”
The couple had enjoyed 11 days in Ibiza along with Yasmin’s siblings Benji, 17, Harvey, 13, and Alfie, eight, and their grandparents. Yasmin had been cleared as “fit to fly” by her doctor and the couple had alerted airline staff to her conditions, which also include epilepsy, glaucoma and autism.
They had booked seats at the back of the aircraft with Yasmin by a window in the hope of minimising any disturbance for other passengers if she became distressed, they said. The couple said they had nothing but praise for Jet2 staff and hadn’t alerted them to the confrontation. Her battle with Sturge-Weber Syndrome has seen the little girl already go through more than 50 operations – including nine-hour brain surgery to try to address the 200 daily seizures she suffered.
Yasmin is now recovering at home after being taken to hospital following their arrival back in the UK. Miss Colenso, a director of children’s services at a college for disabled students, added: “I have been contacted by hundreds of other parents who say they have had similar ordeals, most of them only recently. I just hope that by sharing what we experienced it might make people think before reacting like this.”