The family of a sick B.C. boy credited an explosion of Twitter outrage with pressuring Air Canada to fix his wheelchair, which broke as he flew to New York for a charity event and sightseeing trip.
After a horde of tweeters took up his cause, 10-year-old Tanner Bawn, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, was elated Thursday when Air Canada delivered his wheelchair to his hotel. He and his family had spent about 24 hours waiting for the chair, which he needs to be mobile.
"I'm impressed with how Air Canada has stepped up. But I'm still distressed that it took the Internet shrieking loudly at them for it to happen," said Tanner's aunt, Catherine Connors, a Toronto blogger. "If my sister and Tanner had been here on their own with no blogging or without the vast social-media network to help them, it wouldn't have turned out this way."
Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick, however, said the airline acted as soon as it heard of the issue. It found an all-night repair service in New York to do the work.
"We always try to make sure that baggage is delivered safely, but sometimes accidents happen. This is particularly upsetting because it's a mobility device. We're sorry it happened, and we're trying to find out why," Mr. Fitzpatrick said.
Tanner's ordeal began when he landed at LaGuardia Airport Wednesday afternoon only to find his $15,000 custom-built wheelchair in pieces and with screws missing. His mother and aunt used scarves to strap him into a manual wheelchair the airline provided. Calls to the airline to fix his wheelchair or provide another one went unanswered, his aunt said.
Ms. Connors reached out to her Internet followers, and Tanner's tale went viral. Tanner, who suffers from the degenerative disease that has left him almost paraplegic, is immobile without his wheelchair. The social-media community reached out and started looking for a replacement wheelchair, although the donated chair wasn't the right fit for Tanner.
By Thursday afternoon, however, Tanner had his chair back, with a pledge from Air Canada to make more permanent repairs when he returns home to Kamloops.
"He's mobile. He's so happy," Ms. Connors said. "The custom chair is his lifeline."
Tanner will use his wheelchair in New York to see the two things he loves most: Trains at Grand Central Station and dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History. But first, he'll wave to the hundreds of people in New York who will participate in a walk-a-thon for him Friday morning, organized by his aunt, to raise money to renovate his basement so he can have a live-in caregiver and remain at home.
And when all this is done, his ordeal, however difficult, will also allow him to fulfill one of his top wishes: Air Canada has promised to pay for Tanner and his cousins to visit Disney World.