A six-year-old girl saved her mother’s life after she spotted she was having a stroke on a plane.
Alexandra Hajipaulis, 39, was on a Ryanair flight to Crete with her daughter Jaideen when she suffered an ischemic stroke.
It is thought to have been caused by a bubble of air in a vein that traveled up to her brain when the air pressure changed during the plane’s ascent.
Quick-thinking Jaideen noticed her mom was unconscious and alerted an air hostess.
Thankfully, a doctor sitting behind Hajipaulis recognized her symptoms as a stroke and ordered staff to land the plane, where she was then rushed to hospital in a coma.
Hajipaulis, from Wolverhampton, England, is now paralyzed completely in both legs and her left arm, but is grateful that her little girl’s swift actions saved her life.
Her mother Lorna Hajipaulis, 66, has moved back to the UK from Crete to care for her daughter and two grandchildren full time.
“Jaideen saved my life — she knew something was wrong, she got me help even though she was only six years old at the time, I’m so proud of her,” Hajipaulis said.
Before her stroke, the museum worker was a happy and healthy mother-of-two living in Wolverhampton.
On July 17, 2018, she boarded a plane to visit her mother at her home in Crete, Greece, taking her daughter with her.
Halfway into the flight, she collapsed in her seat, leaving her 6-year-old daughter to alert an air hostess to her unconscious mother.
The flight made an emergency stop in Italy where Hajipaulis was rushed to hospital immediately from the airport in a coma.
She underwent hemicraniectomy surgery the next day where a part of the skull is removed to reduce intracranial pressure.
The young mom was then in a coma for 10 days.
“I heard from Alex that she’d boarded the plane and then just a few hours later, someone rang me from the hospital to say she’d had a stroke. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but before I knew it, I was on the next flight to Italy and racing to the hospital. We didn’t know if she’d pull through, and everybody was speaking Italian and telling us it was going to cost thousands to save Hajipauli,” Hajipaulis’ mother Lorna said.
“I had to reach out to relatives and even set up a GoFundMe page to raise the $32,722 needed to get Alex home to the UK. Alex didn’t have the right kind of insurance that would cover what happened to her, and so we had to suddenly raise all this money to get her home safe.”
Hajipaulis’ stroke is thought to have been caused by an air embolism secondary to a bronchogenic cyst.
This is where a previously undetected lung cyst ruptures inside the body due to air pressure rapidly changing, such as in a plane or a submarine.
The rupture of the cyst causes an air embolism to travel to the brain and leads to sufferers experiencing either a stroke or a coma.
Hajipaulis spent a month in the hospital in Italy before she was repatriated to ITU at Queen Elizabeth Hospital on August 13, 2018.
Due to the nature of her stroke, Hajipaulis’ flight home had to be at a lower level than normal to reduce the chances of her having another stroke.
She stayed at the hospital for six weeks before she was moved to a rehab center in Wolverhampton in October 2018.
Lorna then moved Hajipaulis home for nine months before she was offered a place at a care home in September this year, where she remains.
“The stroke has completely changed my life. It’s ruined my life. I can’t walk anymore, I’m stuck in bed, I can’t work. I miss being a mom to my girls. Before this happened to me, I was having two showers a day, but I haven’t even had one since my stroke and that was 17 months ago. I was completely unconscious on the plane and then for the whole time I was in Italy so I can’t remember what happened. I didn’t even speak until six weeks after my stroke, I was completely out of it,” Hajipaulis said.
Her mother Lorna said her wish is for her daughter to walk again.
“Alex doesn’t like being like this, she wants to work, she still has feeling in her legs, she just needs help. We are convinced that with the right physiotherapy, Alex could walk again — that’s all we want to happen,” she said.