Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Paralysed woman who inspired Diana stranded as airline loses back of wheelchair

Gemma Quinn had booked a 19-day trip with two carers.

Diana meets Gemma Quinn, a Merseyside schoolgirl, during her visit to Liverpool’s Women’s Hospital (PA)
Diana meets Gemma Quinn, a Merseyside schoolgirl, during her visit to Liverpool’s Women’s Hospital (PA)

By Jess Glass, PA

A woman whose courage Diana, Princess of Wales found inspiring after she was paralysed as a child has been left stranded in Singapore as part of her wheelchair was lost while travelling.

Gemma Quinn, 35, was paralysed from the neck down in a car accident in 1992 and made headlines as a child due to a heartfelt letter she sent to Superman actor Christopher Reeve about his own paralysis.

An experienced traveller, Ms Quinn booked a 19-day trip of a lifetime across Asia with her two carers at a cost of more than £15,000.

However Ms Quinn is spending her holiday, and Christmas, in a hotel room in Singapore after a “catalogue of errors” meant that the back of her custom-made wheelchair was lost during the first leg of her trip, rendering it unusable.

This was meant to be a holiday of a lifetime which is now turned into a living nightmare Gemma Quinn

She flew from Manchester Airport to Dubai on December 23 with Emirates before arriving in Singapore on December 24, but is now unable to leave her bed or complete the next two stops on her country-hopping trip.

She told the PA news agency: “This was meant to be a holiday of a lifetime which is now turned into a living nightmare.

“I have always tried to live a normal and active life as possible, travel always comes with its difficulties, but I have never been made to feel so disabled as I do now.”

The 35-year-old made headlines nearly a quarter of a century ago after she wrote to Mr Reeve when he was paralysed from the neck down in a horse-riding accident in 1995.

After encouraging the late actor to not give up in the face of his diagnosis, Merseysider Ms Quinn met Diana that same year.

After meeting 10-year-old Ms Quinn, Diana wrote a letter to the International Spinal Research Trust, saying: “To any parent, the thought of their child suffering a serious spinal injury is truly frightening.

bpanews_28443952-770f-41b1-8d9c-2b6c114a168a_embedded249221396
Undated handout photo courtesy of Mike Quinn of his daughter Gemma Quinn, 35, who is stranded in Singapore (Mike Quinn/PA)

“I therefore find Gemma’s example of hope and courage all the more inspiring.”

Ms Quinn told PA she had been “degraded” by the experience with Emirates after she was informed the back of her chair had been lost after her first flight.

Without the specially-moulded back of the chair, she was carried through Dubai airport in a stretcher in order to make her connecting flight.

“It was an absolutely mortifying experience,” Ms Quinn said.

“I kept telling all the staff that if they couldn’t find the missing back off my chair then there was no point in me continuing my trip.

“I got the feeling that they just wanted me off the aircraft.

“I eventually very reluctantly agreed to be stretchered to my connecting flight on the promise that they would be working on a solution by the time I landed in Singapore.”

Ms Quinn added the vital part of the custom-chair, which cost several thousand pounds, has not been recovered and was not even registered as lost by Emirates until she got to Singapore.

Her father Mike Quinn, a former computer programmer, said Emirates had “washed their hands” of his daughter’s ordeal.

“They’ve said sorry, we’ve looked everywhere, we can’t find it, there’s nothing we can do. Emirates simply don’t care,” he told PA.

bpanews_28443952-770f-41b1-8d9c-2b6c114a168a_embedded249221394
Makeshift repairs on a wheelchair (Mike Quinn/PA)

The 35-year-old was set to be travelling to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to celebrate the New Year before travelling to a beach resort in the country.

However, this is now unlikely given the custom-built nature of Ms Quinn’s chair.

Emirates has said nothing can be done until after the Christmas holiday.

She added: “By the time I landed in Singapore nothing had been done, the only thing they did put a pillow on the back of my chair held in place with two aeroplane seat belts, I told them how unsafe this was for me but they shrugged it off.

“Here I am now confined to my hotel room completely immobile, the only sights that I can see is the sights out of my window until Emirates deliver on a promise.”

Emirates has been contacted for comment.

PA

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph