American Airlines names jet after Columbia teen with special needs, facing grim diagnosis

Published: Jul. 29, 2019 at 11:35 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - At the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, there are arrivals. And there are departures.

The flights typically come and go on time. For 17-year-old Shantell “Princess” Pooser of Columbia, time may be short.

Monday, she arrived at the airport with her mother to go on yet another flight to Cincinnati for medical treatment.

Shantell faces multiple terminal respiratory disorders, as well as Down Syndrome and her mother Deanna Miller Berry says some days are harder than others.

“It was really rough this morning, waking up. I woke up crying because it's a bit scary what we have to endure.”

Shantell’s prognosis is grim. Her journey has been hard. A procedure in Cincinnati Tuesday will give her a prosthetic trachea but has a small rate of success. If it is not successful, her breathing will become that much more difficult.

Yet, while Shantell has been dealt a tough hand here on earth, the skies have proven to be "friendly" indeed.

During the regular trips back and forth to Cincinnati for treatment, the pilots and crew of American Airlines developed a special bond with Shantell.

Last year, WIS was there as the airline helped Shantell realize her dream of becoming an honorary flight attendant on her 17th birthday.

Casablanca Francis is a flight attendant for the airline and along with her crew, they have taken Shantell under their collective wing.

“For me, it's just making a difference, and showing the world that we as crew members and we as human beings can just care for each other on life's journey,” Francis explained.

But for all the tender loving care American Airlines has provided, Monday the airline went even further. The airline named the plane after Shantell- with stickers on the door and special signage on the seats.

It was a surprise gesture, that brought her mother to tears.

The crew also provided a piano serenade, and a true VIP experience with a cake, and kind escorts treating her like a true princess.

“I’m just overwhelmed by how many people truly love my daughter.”

As the flight took off from Columbia, with an uncertain journey ahead, the American Airlines jet named after Princess will do what it's namesake has done every day of her young life:

It will soar through the turbulence, toward heaven with love and well wishes beneath her wings.

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