NEWS

2012-04-17

Con Air

The parents of a severely disabled girl have blasted a “heartless” airline after they charged them £660 – to supply the tot with life-saving OXYGEN during the flight.

Tragic three-year-old Jolina Skye Barton suffers from Ohtahara Syndrome – an incredibly rare form of epilepsy which can spark dozens of seizures a day. 

The condition – which effects just 200 children in the world - has left the toddler unable to walk, talk or feed herself. 

Her desperate parents, Shane Barton, 23, and Jennifer Stermann, 26, raised #15,000 to send her to the Caribbean to undergo radical ‘Dolphin Therapy’ which has been proven to reduce the symptoms of the condition.

They spent six months raising funds for the trip but one week before they were due to fly out Dutch airline KLM slapped them with an extra 800Euros (£660) surcharge to supply Jolina with oxygen she needs to survive the 11-hour flight.

Shockingly, the firm told the couple they had to fork out for the oxygen because it was “company policy” to charge disabled passengers if they required additional services.

Former nurse Jennifer, from Kingstanding, Birmingham, said: "We booked it in January and we told them that we need oxygen on board for Jolina to survive the flight. 

“No one said anything about any extra charges for the oxygen and we assumed that because she was so young and disabled that it would be provided free.

“I rang them last Friday just to confirm the details of the flight and was told we still had 800Euros outstanding for the oxygen. 

“I was gobsmacked and couldn’t believe the airline could be so heartless 

"They told us that KLM will charge us 200Euros (#165) to provide the oxygen for each flight for something that's necessary for Jolina to live.

“When we told them our little girl was disabled and would die without the oxygen we were told it was ‘company policy’ to charge for extra services.

“I was gobsmacked when they told us, I just couldn't say anything.

"It's unbelievable, we've just paid £3,500 for the flights and I think this is absolutely out of order by them to charge a disabled child so much for something that is necessary.

“We are not going to the Caribbean for a holiday, it’s scientific treatment for Jolina which could change her life. 

"They say we have got to pay it or we are not allowed to fly.

“I wouldn't let her go on the flight without oxygen because she would go blue and could die in the pressurised environment.

"I feel like I don't want to pay it because it's so harsh - but we really have no choice.

"We are trying to save up because we have to pay this out of our own money.

"All the other money has gone on the flights and hotel and food and the treatment for Jolina."

The tragic tot was left permanently brain damaged after she was starved of oxygen when she was born four weeks early in a German hospital in February 2009.

Doctors warned Jennifer and Shane she was unlikely to see her first birthday and would need to take 18 drugs every day to control her seizures.

Brave Jolina defied the medics to make it to three and her parents hope the dolphin therapy could dramatically improve her life.

Jennifer, who is 20 weeks pregnant with the couple’s second child, added: “It's not guaranteed that it will help, there's just a chance. 

“The doctors don't know how but they've taken blood samples from other children before and after the therapy and it changed their endorphin levels. 

"It made them develop better and for some of the children, their muscles got stronger. 

“They can't prove how it works but maybe it's because dolphins are very calm and human-like in how they interact with the children. 

"We have been told that Jolina won't walk but we are really hoping that there is a chance the dolphin therapy would help. 

"It has helped other children have less seizures. We're not getting our hopes up or expecting miracles but we are hoping it might help a little bit. 

"I really wish she could just say 'mummy'. She's constantly like a newborn baby, only she sleeps less.

"She is on loads of medications, she has 18 different types in fluids a day.”

The couple are due to fly from Birmingham to the Caribbean island of Curacao on Friday but the trip will be scrapped unless they find the extra #660 for Jolina’s oxygen.

Shane, a former male dancer, said: "I think it's ridiculous that KLM won't help us out.

“We are desperately hoping the airline reconsiders or someone loans us the extra money because we have no other funds available. 

“The chances are at the moment we will have to cancel the trip and lose the money but we are hoping and praying for some kind of miracle.

"It's not as if we are going on a holiday for the sake of it, we have worked hard to raise thousands of pounds to try and improve Jolina's life.”

Nobody was available from KLM yesterday.