While some of us have first-hand experience of an airline losing their luggage, few of us have first-hand experience of being lost luggage. Sadly, that isn’t the case for Alice Vaticano, 85. Sitting in a wheelchair, she was abandoned and forgotten by a skycap, who failed to roll her to the appropriate passenger gate at Newark Liberty International Airport. The elderly woman, who suffers from diabetes, sat there for 11 hours before anyone noticed her, the NY Daily News reported. Because of her diabetic condition, she became forgetful and unaware of her surroundings.

Diabetic Distress

Because Vaticano is a diabetic her condition could easily have spun out of control due to not eating. When a diabetic fails to eat at regular intervals, her blood glucose level will plummet and this may lead to a hypoglycemic spiral. When hypoglycemia occurs, a diabetic will experience dizziness, weakness, headache, and shakiness. If Vaticano’s blood glucose levels had dropped too low, she might have lost consciousness. In the very worst of such cases, a diabetic may even fall into a coma.

In Vaticano's case, her diabetic condition certainly explains her confusion and inability to help herself in the midst of busy Newark Airport. How, though, did she become helpless and lost within the busy airport in the first place? After spending time with family on the East Coast, Vaticano’s misery began when her daughter drove her to Newark airport, arriving two hours ahead of time, for a flight back to Denver where she resides. Her daughter did not have permission to take Vaticano through inspection to the gate, so she asked a skycap to escort her mother, who was in a wheel chair and is considered a special needs passenger.

Yet, the skycap didn’t perform her duty and Vaticano ended up lost like misplaced luggage. Time passed. She missed her flight home on Southwest airlines.

When her mother didn’t get off the plane in Denver, Donna Vaticano, another daughter, alerted Southwest employees. As the hours ticked by, her daughter’s fears escalated. Finally, employees located Vaticano and escorted her to the passenger gate of a flight home to Denver. As a consolation prize, the airline gave her $200 in travel vouchers.

Southwest, in a statement, said skycaps are not employees of the airline. They blamed the debacle on a “processing error” occurring at check-in, where gate staff should have been alerted that a special need passenger would need assistance to board the aircraft. “I want answers. What the heck happened?” Vaticano’s daughter told CBS News. To some, the daughter’s distress may seem overly dramatic, but considering her mother's diabetic condition, her dismay is justified.