Thank you Southwest Airlines!
Dear Southwest Airlines,
This is a thank you letter to Flight Attendant Juan Rivera, Captain Marc Bonisch and Capt. Marc Nannini, who went above and beyond the call of duty.
My son James was born with Down syndrome. When he was six-years-old he was diagnosed with Autism. I want the whole world to know how much Southwest Airlines cares about all of their passengers, including those with special needs – which in theory is all of us!
What happened to me and my son on our flight from Baltimore to Ft. Myers is by far the worst situation I have ever found myself in with my special needs child, and I apologize if the carpeting in front of seat 3A on that Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 will now have to be replaced.
James had a minor surgery the day before we were scheduled to fly. He seemed to be recovering just fine and when I told him we would be going to the beach he was so excited. James has been flying since he was six-weeks-old. At one point he had more frequent flyer miles than I did and has no trouble sitting in his seat for hours at a time. And… the fact that he loves pretzels (one of his few foods of choice) makes flying Southwest an added bonus.
Our flight took us from our home in Nashville to Baltimore. During our layover in Baltimore it was evident James did not feel well. He laid on my lap, which he never does, and shivered. My hope was that he would just sleep on the flight to Ft. Myers and when I arrived and met up with my husband Jim, we could get some medicine in him.
James did in fact sleep for almost the entire flight. I prayed for him, gently rubbed his forehead and snapped this sweet photo. But this was the calm before the storm. But what happen next would prove to be the most challenging circumstance I had ever found myself in.
Sparing your readers, the gruesome details, I will just tell you that James had a horrible potty accident. Horrible. Violent. Volcanic. The likes of which I have never seen before or since. It was so bad that I didn’t know what to do or where to begin. I sat in my seat frozen with fear and sadness and humiliation. It’s one thing when something like this happens at home and you can strip your baby down and throw them into the tub. It’s another when you are in an airline seat and your child is eight-years-old.
I was on the verge of a complete meltdown when Juan, the flight attendant put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Ma’am what do you need?” I said, “I need trash bags. Two of them. I need wet paper towels. Hundreds of them.” Then, for the next fifteen minutes Juan helped me clean up my little boy. I wiped and cleaned and wiped and cleaned. Juan picked up trash and brought stacks and stacks of wet paper towels and encouragement. “It’s going to be okay,” he said.
After Juan and I were able to get James clean I started to work on the floor. But the more I rubbed the worse it got. I did the best I could and handed over the last of the paper towels to Juan. I let the tears silently roll down my cheeks and Juan brought me water. I looked at James, as clean as I could get him, quietly sitting in his seat. And in his awkward tongue he said, “yank you bobby.” (Thank you Mommy.)
As we exited the plane, surely engulfed in a Pig-pen-esq cloud of smoke, there was a team of people, dressed like Hazmat workers, waiting to board the plane. As I stood on the jet way, waiting for James’ stroller, I over heard the pilot, (Capt. Marc Bonisch or Capt. Marc Nannini – I’m not sure which one it was) say to the workers, “Yes, there was an incident on board and we need you to see how bad it is before we can make a decision as too whether or not this plane can stay in use.” He looked over at me. I couldn’t decide whether to cry, to scream or raid the liquor cart. The Capt. personally brought me my stroller. I told him how sorry I was that this happened. And then he comforted me, “Ma’am, these things happen. It’s okay. We can’t thank you enough for flying with us!” There he was, thanking me, when I may have just put the plane out of use!
I would have never have been able to get through such a challenging circumstance if it wasn’t the kindness and support of two amazing SWA employees.
I am recording artist. I have been doing a house concert tour, flying SWA every weekend to different cities all over the country. I schedule my shows only where SWA fly’s to… because I know that SWA will not only get me their safely, but they will get me there feeling supported and loved. You are my airline of choice because you care.
I was able to confirm Juan and the pilot’s names via social media. I first posted this story (along with all the gruesome details) on my Facebook page.
Thank you again SWA for your kindness and ability to look past everything you could see (and smell) and care for our souls.