A wheelchair is often the only way people with disabilities can get around. So imagine the surprise when a San Antonio visitor learned an airline lost hers.

Rebecca Keith left Denver on Wednesday. The doctoral candidate was heading to San Antonio to present research when she learned that her wheelchair never made it on board.

Keith isn't confined to a wheelchair, but she certainly relies on hers.

"When I walk, the biggest issue is that I feel like someone is constantly stuffing a pillow in my face, suffocating me," Keith explained.

She has a rare disorder that's required her to endure chemotherapy for the past eight months.

"I have mixed connective tissue disorder, which is a combination of lupus systemic sclerosis, which is a derivative of MS, and then polymyositis," Keith described. "I was asked how bad did I need a chair. I said, 'I need a chair, obviously.'"

Rebecca was horrified when she said that, when she arrived in Dallas, she had to walk to make her connection to San Antonio.

"I had to walk all the way up myself, and I'm not able to walk that far. And, therefore, I had to stop about five times because I was going to either fall or pass out," Keith recalled.

She said that employees at American Airlines were nice, but unable to help after her wheelchair was lost in Denver.

"The fact is, when my chair wasn't there, their employees should have had a list of items to do on how to solve this issue. They had no idea what to do," Keith said.

She waited more than an hour once she landed in San Antonio to get a wheelchair. Hers didn't arrive until Thursday afternoon.

When it arrived, it was torn, scratched, and damaged.

"I wasn't a person to the airline throughout this entire process, which is so disheartening because, at every single point of this process, I had to plead with them to take me seriously," Keith said.

Rebecca wants the airline to review how it treats customers with disabilities and to know, "We're not just a number, a plane ticket, we're actually people who should be treated with dignity and respect."

A spokesperson for American Airlines apologized for the ordeal and said that the airline would give Rebecca a full refund and fix her wheelchair, at no cost to her.