Pat says trips to New Orleans, nearly 2,500 miles away from her home in Spokane, happen almost annually. She was recently diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer related to lymphoma and leukemia. Within days of enjoying the Big Easy, despite cancer, Pat noticed increased tiredness and difficulty in catching her breath. When she couldn’t breathe one morning, her daughter called the paramedics who took her to Tulane Medical Center. From there, Pat says she doesn’t remember much. “I was out like a light … the doctor and my family didn’t think I was going to make it,” Pat says. “I woke up on the seventh day and said, ‘Hi.'”
Pat’s waking up prompted the necessary process of transporting her from New Orleans back to Spokane to begin rehabilitation. Pat was still hooked to IV lines and tubes, and the journey would be a difficult one as she was unable to stand or move around. Her son, Roy, with the help of Tulane’s case managers, sent out requests for admission to facilities in Spokane. Dr. Jones received one of these requests via email while coincidentally on a business trip in New Orleans, just blocks from Pat’s hospital room.
Dr. Jones found Pat’s son pacing the hospital hallway and introduced herself. He was astonished that a doctor from St. Luke’s was at Tulane. Timing was crucial to obtain an admission into a rehabilitation hospital and get Pat the additional help she needed to recover. Southwest Airlines had one flight readily available that stopped in Chicago on the way to Spokane, but it left the next day.
“Southwest Airlines was just amazing getting us the tickets we needed,” Pat says. “They had the wheelchair there ready to go each time and ensured I had priority boarding to make the process as easy as possible. And when my daughter and her family flew back a few days later, the zero baggage fees came in handy since she had all of mine with her in addition to her own.”
At St. Luke’s, Pat received the full spectrum of therapies available, and because travel is part of her life, Pat practiced transfers and walking in a replica Southwest Airlines fuselage donated to St. Luke’s several years ago. Therapists use the airplane therapy module every day with patients who plan to travel.
Pat remained focused on her rehabilitation and regained her ability to walk. She was discharged home, where she uses a cane along with the exercises she learned at St. Luke’s to continue her progress. She says she will always be grateful for the amazing medical and airline teamwork that brought her back home.