By Jasmine Kazlauskas
A homesick expat flew from Australia to Manchester to surprise her elderly grandparents in a heart-warming video – but feared the shock might KILL them.
Leyla Fitzpatrick and her husband Stephen, both 38, moved to Melbourne from Manchester with their three kids Ariana, 6, and twins Kian and Kaira, 4, nearly two years ago to get a taste of life Down Under.
But despite the family relishing their Australian dream, Leyla was consumed with homesickness and longed to be back in her hometown of Chadderton to see her beloved grandparents again.
So after 18 months away from home, the couple forked out £4,000 (AU$7,000) for return flights and made the gruelling 24-hour, 17,000 kilometre journey with their children to surprise pensioners Sheila, 79, and Norman, 82, who had “absolutely no idea” they were coming.
Leyla has now shared footage of the tear-jerking reunion straight from the plane – but revealed she was terrified the prank could backfire and give one of her grandparents a fatal heart attack.
The government worker turned blogger and stay-at-home mum said: “I didn’t tell anyone except my parents because if word had got out, it would have totally ruined the surprise.
“My parents said, ‘but what if you give them a heart attack or something – what if they just can’t take it?’ and then I started to think ‘oh my god, can you imagine?’
“My grandparents really had no clue because we don’t actually talk that much over the phone, maybe once a month, so they had no idea – poor things.
“Gran had called me a few days before we were due to fly and said ‘we’re going to see you one of these days’ and I couldn’t stop laughing to myself.
“We planned on waiting for a few days to go see them after landing because of the jetlag, but once we arrived the excitement was killing us, so we went and surprised them straight off the plane.
“My kids were so excited and I had to keep telling them to be quiet as we approached their house.
“My grandad was the first to see us and we just couldn’t believe that he didn’t give the game away.
“Although he was shocked he still played along and said, ‘Sheila can you help me with something’ to get my gran to come downstairs.
“My gran started shaking and crying when she saw us, she couldn’t believe that we were actually there.
“She kept saying ‘are you really here, I’ll kill you for what you’ve done to me, I can’t believe it, I’m nearly having a heart attack'”
“My grandparents are such story tellers and we thought this would be a story they would tell for the rest of their lives.”
Leyla revealed that leaving her grandparents was “one of the hardest things” about immigrating to Australia because of their incredibly close bond.
And before she left, the devoted granddaughter even brought Sheila and Norman a brand new iPad which she set up for them so they could keep in contact easily.
Leyla also revealed her grandad Norman has always been infatuated with Australia and has always dreamed of visiting but never got the chance and is now not well enough for the grueling flight.
Leyla and her husband Stephen met in Manchester eleven years ago and travelled together around Asia and Australia, with the pair living in Australia for over a year.
The couple fell in love with the country and moved to Aus permanently in March 2016 but Leyla said while it had been a “dream come true” in so many ways there were also difficulties she wished she had known about beforehand.
Leyla said: “l’ve always been very close to my grandparents. I used to live with them and my life wouldn’t be the same without them.
“Before I left I knew how rubbish my grandparents were with technology, so I bought them an iPad and installed Skype, YouTube and Gmail and I’ve been emailing them every day since.
“I’ll make videos and send them the YouTube link so they can see the kids. It gives them a chance to see their great-grandkids growing up.
“People have this idea that coming here is going to be amazing, all beaches and sunshine, and it is, we do absolutely love it, but the distance from your family is so hard.”
To follow Leyla’s blog go to www.lovefromleyla.com