Jordan Flake of South Carolina recently boarded an American Airlines flight in El Paso, Texas. She and her 1-year-old son Jackson were on their way back home to Dallas after visiting family. Only minutes after boarding, she was approached by an airline employee who asked her about the rash that covered her neck and face. Flake explained that she and her son have a rare genetic condition known as ichthyosis. This condition leaves the skin very dry, red, and flaky. While it is not contagious, the flight crew told Flake she could not ride the plane without a doctors note explaining the circumstances. She and her son were promptly kicked off, according to Today.
Flake was frustrated and humiliated, as she had never been told she required a doctor’s note to fly in the past. Ironically, the incident happened on Rare Diseases Day, which occurs on February 28 each year. The meaning of the day is to raise awareness about diseases, just like ichthyosis, and increase understanding of those who suffer from uncommon conditions.
— Vincent Iannelli, MD (@AboutPediatrics) March 4, 2019
More than the embarrassment and inconvenience of having to secure another flight, Flake was primarily upset about the fact that she was so harshly judged because of her appearance. This experience only goes to show that more awareness needs to be raised about these types of conditions and flight employees should be trained to not be afraid of those that look different than them.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure to ichthyosis and patients often deal with it for the entirety of their lives. However, the symptoms can be alleviated with ointments and lotions. While it has taken time for Flake to accept that she will always look a little different than those around her, she now hopes to encourage others who are dealing with these types of issues to feel confident in themselves. In an inspiring Instagram post, Flake spoke out about her journey of finding this sense of self-acceptance.
“When your skin feels different, when people wipe their hands after they shake yours, and people hesitate to hold your hand…it makes you feel very self conscious. Then I began to accept the fact that this is the way God made me…for a reason! I just had to find the reason and I think I’m beginning to.”
American Airlines has apologized to Flake for the incident and will be paying for her next flight.
“We sincerely apologize to Ms. Flake and her son for the experience they had last Thursday, and our team has begun an investigation into the matter.”