When it came to a special birthday surprise, strangers lifted her up.
Shantell “Shannie” Pooser spent her 17th birthday last October getting her dream job as a flight attendant.
Her mom, Deanna Miller-Berry, said she wasn’t expecting such an overwhelming response from strangers when she asked a friend who worked for American Airlines to get her daughter some trinkets as a gift.
“The next thing I know, I get a call from one of the pilots. Capt. Matthew Coelyn. He told me, ‘We’re working on something. “And that’s when it all just sparked.”
Celebrating her birthday in such a big way is especially important for the teen, who is also nicknamed Princess.
Pooser, who has Down syndrome, is fighting a series of tracheal diseases that make it nearly impossible for her to breathe. Miller-Berry said her daughter was misdiagnosed for years until she found a team of doctors who were able to run the right tests.
“She has a series of terminal airway defects. What’s happening is she’s got a series of growths from her nasal cavity to her larynx and it causes her to suffocate on a day-to-day basis. So when she was first born, we woke up to a blue baby almost every night not knowing what was going on,” Miller-Berry said.
In 2015, the family learned Pooser’s condition was terminal.
“Right now she’s 100 percent affected when she breathes in, but when she breathes out, she’s about 87 percent affected. She had the surgery in 2016 that at least saved her life, but we knew the risks were the growths could grow back. And now they’re aggressively growing,” Miller-Berry said.
Flying back and forth between their South Carolina home and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has become a family routine.
“It’s almost like any moment. Because at any moment, her airways could close up and not open back up again. So every day we live on eggshells,” said Miller-Berry.
That realization caused Miller-Berry to ask her daughter to make her a bucket list.
“I made a vow to God,” Miller-Berry told CBS News. “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 percent, I’ll do my best to make your dreams come true.’”
Pooser’s includes taking a hot-air balloon to her junior prom, meeting Tyler Perry’s popular character Madea and teaching Ellen DeGeneres a thing or two. “She wants to have a dance off with Ellen. She says Ellen can’t dance.”
Another special surprise for Pooser’s 18th birthday in October is already in the works. Her family is planning on building her a tiny house.
But first, Princess will undergo another emergency surgery this week.
Miller-Berry said her daughter has defied the odds before.and believes she will do so again.