About The easyJet Thing…
Okie doke! So after being nearly a week away in Greece with absolutely no internet signal, I’ve returned to HUNDREDS of messages and notifications et cetera… (bear with me guys, I’m working through them all)
So whilst I’m sat typing in my bed, chomping on a Cornetto (I know how to live), I thought I’d write a little something about the incident regarding myself being asked to leave an easyJet plane which I was due to travel on for a friend’s wedding, after having a small Tonic-Clonic Seizure. (You can read the story here).
First off, I would like to say a HUGE thank you for everyone’s support. I’m struggling to articulate how grateful I am towards everyone… but you’re bloody TERRIFIC!
For those who do not know, this all started with myself posting a bit of a rant on my personal Facebook page, asking for a few of my friends to help me spread the news. I was initially hoping to get a few mates to retweet me in the hope of getting easyJet’s attention on Twitter (since I know of people who have been ignored by easyJet before). However, LOADS of you shared and within about an hour, a friend of mine informed me that the Daily Express covered a piece about the incident and almost immediately after, The Independent contacted me asking for telephone interview. And a tiny bit of a media shit storm ensued. Which was utterly surprising, stressful and wonderful all at the same time. Many people had experienced similar scenarios and I also discovered that this attitude towards customers with disabilities is worryingly commonplace throughout the budget airlines. The story has been in covered in a fair few newspapers since, but I was already in Greece by then with no internet, so I only aware of this when I got back home late last night.
Now to clear some things up…
I would like to take this opportunity to say that the airline stewards were respectful and wonderful the whole time. So this is NOT about the stewards whatsoever. It is about easyJet’s policy and lack of training for their staff.
Yes, I did get put up in a hotel that night for myself and for a fellow traveler, plus we were transferred on to the flight for the next day, all free of charge. I made this clear from the start. But I’m afraid, many people are missing the point entirely. The point is that I wanted to be in Greece with my friends, not in Gatwick. I shouldn’t have been removed as I WAS well enough to fly. The seizure was minor, I was fully coherent and back to making my standard cringy dad-style jokes within minutes. The paramedics, a first aider and a lovely passenger who happened to be a nurse, all cleared me safe for travel and they fought my corner (which I’m so appreciative of).
But yet, I was still asked to leave the plane. I was clearly not a danger to staff, other passengers or myself. I did nothing wrong, yet I felt I was being punished.
I found the whole situation very condescending. I really wanted to say:
‘HELLO, YOU CAN TALK TO ME, I AM A HUMAN, JUST LIKE YOU’
I felt people were talking around me. I’m a thirty-year-old woman who was fully conscious at the time. I know my own epilepsy better than anyone else. I know that the seizure I had was normal for me and mild. Do you really think I would want to fly if I’d had a serious seizure or had a seizure that was atypical for me? If I was seriously unwell, then obviously the last thing I’d want to do is travel! Why wasn’t I asked what I wanted?
Other comments I’ve received are that I should’ve taken a note with me from a GP…. Seriously?! Really?!!! I travel ALL the time! I’m a model, I travel. I’m not going to be handing out doctors notes everywhere I go, with everything I do. I’m a very busy woman and I don’t have the time to keep popping off to the GP’s to get a doctor’s note – I’m not at school trying to get out of netball practice! I’m an adult trying to live a normal life. Most importantly, I do not want, need or expect be defined by my disability. Unless I feel that a certain activity could be a potential risk to my health (and flying in an airplane is certainly NOT one of them), I will speak up but other than that, I absolutely do not need to.
The bottom line; I had a mild seizure. I was cleared to travel by medical professionals, yet I was still asked to leave the plane. This is nothing short of discrimination.
I am not in this for any money for myself, whatsoever. I do not make any money for myself out any of my epilepsy awareness campaigns. Ever. On the contrary, I lose money from it! If I was in it for the money, I wouldn’t have put myself in such a stressful position that I needed to go through counseling, twice, in order to finish Helen’s Story, all the time I was fully aware that I would not be receiving one single penny from it. Nor would I to risk my career as a model (not to mention my social life 😉 ) by shaving my hair off for Young Epilepsy if I wanted financial gain from the work I do to raise epilepsy awareness. I do this because it’s 2016, yet still so little is known about the most common neurological condition (about 1 in 100 people have epilepsy to a varying degree). All I want to come from this little hiccup is for Easyjet and other budget airlines to reconsider their discriminating policies regarding customers with epilepsy (and maybe if you’re really, really sorry easyJet, you could donate to my YoungEpilepsy Fundraisng page or to another Epilepsy charity 😉 ).
Incidentally, I did make the wedding on time – Hoorah!! Rachelle looked beautiful, I cried like a baby and then I drank lots of wine. I even wore a dress and heels, which put a lot of people into shock. But alas, I’m not the most elegant in heels, so I totally tripped, fell and richocheted across the ground THREE TIMES in front of an incredibly pretty man on the walk home. Wine + Heels + Helen = Numerous slapstick-worthy events.
Lastly, I’d like to give a HUGE thank you to the internet trolls – you’ve been marvelous fun, as always. Hiding behind the safety of your keyboards, in a darkened room surrounded by empty crisp packets and crushed multipack Coca Cola cans, all sweaty and angry. You always give me a bit of a giggle. My favourite comment so far is being called a narcissistic ‘model’ with fat lips. (I don’t know why he thought the need to apostrophise the word ‘model’, since this is my full time business – maybe it’s due to my ‘unconventional’ model look, perhaps he feels ‘professional photobomber’ would be more appropriate?). But in absolute earnestness, I’m sending you all a massive heartfelt hug, as I feel that you guys probably haven’t had one in a very long time. The world isn’t as bad as you think it is xxx
However, I’m thinking ‘Professional Narcissistic Photobomber with Fat Lips’ should be my new slogan henceforth….
Thank you for reading and much love to you all,
ps.Shameless Plug Alert: If anyone would like to donate to my Young Epilepsy fundraiser (I’m not going to grow my hair back until I raise £10k) then please visit: www.justgiving.com/HelenStephensModel x