Lori Gabriel felt like she was going to be sick on a recent flight from San Diego to Houston — but it had nothing to do with turbulence.
Gabriel’s 4-year-old son Braysen, who has autism, was in full blown meltdown mode and her stomach was in knots.
“I was waiting for people to start complaining,” Gabriel told TODAY Parents. “I'm used to getting lots of dirty looks and comments."
The trouble started just moments before takeoff when Braysen decided he wanted to run up and down the aisles.
“I was thinking in my head, They are going to remove us,’” Gabriel said. “The plane was completely full and there was a standby list of about 20 people. I was expecting the worst. I would have understood if they asked us to get off."
Instead, two flight attendants approached Gabriel and asked how they could help.
“They allowed me to hold Braysen in my lap,” Gabriel explained. “He was screaming, hitting and my pulling my hair the entire time, but we were able to take off.”
As soon as the pilot turned off the seatbelt sign, Gabriel let go of Braysen. “I had scratches on my arms,” she said. “I was exhausted, emotionally and physically."
That’s when Braysen took off.
“He likes to kick the floor with his heels. It’s something about the vibration,” Gabriel revealed. “At one point, he accidentally kicked the lady in the row next to us. She was like, ‘It’s not a big deal; don’t worry about it.'"
Then, Braysen, who is nonverbal, made his way to first class, where he was greeted with high fives and more kindness.
When it came time for drink service, the flight attendants used trays instead of carts so that Braysen could rest on the floor with his security blanket.
“I didn’t expect United to work around my child," Gabriel said. "But if he was in the aisle and I was trying to move him, they were like, ‘We got this. If he’s happy, we’re happy.’" I’ve never in my life been in a situation where I’ve had so many understanding people.”
Shortly after the plane landed, a flight attendant handed Gabriel a note. When Gabriel talks about it, she becomes emotional.
It read in part: “I commend you for your strength. Do not EVER let anyone make you feel as though you are an inconvenience or a burden. He is a blessing . . . Continue to be superwoman and know you and your family are loved and supported.”
Gabriel shared the feel-good story on Facebook where it quickly went viral.
"I also have a special needs son. Most of the time people don’t understand what we as parents go through so we do not cause an inconvenience to others around us," wrote one woman. Added another, "Other airlines, take note!"