Daily News - 7 October 2013
Joe Thompson, 12, spent 16 extra months in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, unable to accompany his family on a move back to their home country due to his paralyzing anxiety. He began working with a hypnotist to calm his fears.
A British boy was stranded in Abu Dhabi for nearly 16 months due to a paralyzing fear of flying that left him unable to even board a plane. But 12-year-old Joe Thompson finally flew home last week thanks to a little help from his hypnotherapist and phobia hypnosis.
Joe's parents, Tony and Pauline Thompson, moved to the Middle Eastern capital in 2009 for Tony's work as a quality manager at a private hospital, the family told SWNS news. Young Joe had grown up a frequent flyer, but began showing signs of anxiety on a flight back from visiting Britain in March 2012. On his next flight, to a rugby tournament in Sri Lanka, he suffered a panic attack before takeoff and was asked by airline staff to leave the plane.
When it came time for the family to move back to Britain in June 2012, Joe was unable to go. He tried four separate times to board a flight home, but experienced more panic attacks with sobbing and stomach cramps.
"There was no event that prompted it. It just happened out of the blue. And the fear is quite acute," Joe Thompson said. "He was fine until he got to check-in and then he fell apart. He got stomach pains, he collapsed and sat on the floor sobbing. It was awful. He never talked about the plane crashing. He just said each time ‘it’s the height’."
Joe's parents sent him to see a series of specialists and psychiatrists, but none were able to help. They also looked into sending him home by boat or by car, but ran into visa problems. Meanwhile, they were forced to spend over $60,000 extending their stay overseas.
Finally they met hypnotherapist Russell Hemmings, a British expat living in Dubai, who heard Joe's story and offered to help them for free. He accompanied Joe and his father on what would prove to be a successful flight home.
"On board I was able to bring [Joe] down, calm him using hypnosis techniques. The results were amazing," Hemmings said. "I used a combination of hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy. Joe started having a meltdown at the airport, but we worked through the issue.
"I had actually prepared for this flight days and weeks ago during our therapy sessions, using the power of hypnotic suggestion, meaning Joe already had the tools for success deeply planted into his subconscious mind, he just wasn't necessarily aware of it."
"There were some dicey moments before he boarded the flight because [Joe] started getting very distressed," Tony Thompson said. "Words cannot describe how happy we all are. It’s wonderful to be home again as a family."
"I’m so happy to be home. I can’t believe how cold it is here," Joe said after his 7.5-hour flight landed at London's Heathrow airport. "I just want to get home and see my dog. I haven’t seen him for two years and I just want to give him a big hug.”
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