Twelve-year-old Joe Thompson landed at London Heathrow Airport four years after his family moved to the UAE when his father Tony, 62, was offered a managerial role at a private hospital.
They were due to fly back to Weston-Super-Mare in June 2012 when Tony’s contract ended but just four months before they planned to come back, Joe developed an acute fear of flying.
When the youngster boarded a flight to Sri Lanka to attend a rugby tour with his father the fear came to light when he found that he could not face the journey.
‘We got on the plane but Joe became so traumatised, the crew said he had to get off,’ his father said as he explained that Joe was scrambling over the seats to get out.
MORE: Joe Thompson tells ITV’s Daybreak about plans to fly again
Joe receives treatment from Russell Hemmings to help him make the 4,500-mile journey back to Heathrow Airport (Picture: SWNS)‘It was terrible. I had 40 other children with me who were all taking part in the tournament. I couldn’t leave them so I had to let Joe get off. I called my wife and she came and picked him up.’
The family then repeatedly tried to get Joe on a plane without any success, meaning that the father and son had to stay behind in the country while the boy’s mother went back to the UK to work.
The duo rented apartments and stayed at friends’ houses in order to save money, until a breakthrough occurred a year and a half later.
Joe’s aerophobia – which had baffled doctors because he had flown long-haul many times as a child – was soothed by hypnotist Russell Hemmings.
‘Russell was the best chance I had. He helped me out so much,’ Joe said.
‘He taught me so much and I’m so thankful.’
The family predict that they have spent the best part of £40,000 trying to cure their son’s fear which includes cancelled flight tickets and doctor bills.
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