17-yr-old Shantelle Pooser is American Airlines’ first flight attendant with special needs

March 12, 2019 at 01:00 pm | Faces of Black Excellence

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Associate Editor

March 12, 2019 at 01:00 pm | Faces of Black Excellence

Shantelle Pooser is American Airlines' first flight attendant with special needs. Pic credit: FOX Carolina

Shantelle “Shannie” Pooser has been described as the “life of the party”.

This is inspite of having Down’s syndrome, and a terminal condition that has left 80 per cent of the airways in her throat blocked.

Pooser’s condition requires the teen and her mother to frequently travel back and forth to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for treatments and surgeries.

“So far, we’ve been on over 57 (flights). That’s including the connecting flights, as well, too,” Pooser’s mother, Deanna Miller Berry, said.

With the many times spent in the air, she developed a love for flying and eventually it became her dream to become a flight attendant.

Her dreams were fulfilled on her 17th birthday last October when American Airlines organized a special birthday party for her at Columbia Metropolitan Airport and inducted her as a flight attendant.

This made Pooser the airline’s first stewardess with special needs and a terminal illness. As of January this year, CBS reports that she has worked in full uniform about four times since her birthday gift.

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Shantelle Pooser in her uniform. Pic credit: foxcarolina.com

Born with a heart defect and terminal airway defects, Pooser has had to struggle with her condition throughout her whole life.

“Her airway collapses at the back of her airway, so at any moment she can pass out on us and suffocate. So I’ve been having to battle and watch her day after day, night after night, waking up to a blue baby not being able to breathe and not knowing what to do with her,” her mother, Miller Berry recently told local media WRDW in an interview.

She, however, believes that her daughter was born to defy the odds and achieve the impossible. In 2016, after receiving a major surgery that doctors said would leave Pooser in bad shape, “she came out singing ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen,” Miller-Berry said.

“The surgeons were standing around like, ‘We’ve never had anybody come out of this type of surgery talking … this girl is singing ‘Let It Go’ in ICU,'” she recalled in an interview with CBS.

Miller-Berry, at that moment, said she made a vow to God.

“I said, ‘Shannie, no matter what you want to do when you get better, we’ll make a bucket list and I’ll make it happen. If you live long enough where the doctors can fix you 100 per cent, I’ll do my best to make your dreams come true.'”

Her daughter made a short bucket list and the first dream was granted on her 17th birthday. Having made a lot of friends with the flight attendants and pilots through their various trips to the hospital, Pooser expressed her dreams of becoming a flight attendant.

Her mother thought that was not a realistic dream, yet she went ahead to write a letter to a friend who works as a flight attendant at American Airlines.

Miller Berry wanted to know if her daughter could have airline memorabilia, but a pilot from the company offered more than what she asked for – a birthday party on a Boeing jet.

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A screenshot of Shantelle’s birthday party

The party, which was held last October at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, was attended by family and friends. The entire first class of the plane was also filled with local celebrities including Columbia Mayor Stephen Benjamin.

The climax of the party was when American Airlines presented Pooser with an official uniform and badge to enable her to dress as a flight attendant whenever she flies. Due to her condition, the 17-year-old is not able to make long flights on a regular basis.

Since she makes the flight to Cincinnati often, the airline, however, decided to make her part of the staff of the flight each time she flies.

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Shantelle poses with some of the crew. Pic credit: ladbible.com

The CBS reports that before each flight, Pooser assists flight attendants before she sits down to rest. Her job is often to help flight attendants demonstrate safety instructions. Her mother is hopeful that she will be officially employed by the company when she turns 18.

She still has to meet the remaining items on her list, and this includes meeting the Obamas and dancing on Ellen DeGeneres’ show.

Miller Berry started the “Saving Shannie Foundation” a few years ago to help raise money for her daughter. She said that even though the future of her daughter is uncertain, she wants her daughter to inspire others to keep fighting.

Below is a video of Shantelle’s 17th birthday party and her first day at work:

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