We all board the plane with a story. We come from different places; travel for different reasons. Some excited about the journey ahead, some pleading to turn back around. Whatever the reason, we are all passengers headed somewhere. I am one of those passengers, but I am no ordinary passenger. I am not traveling for a vacation or to visit a loved one like most might assume. I travel for medical reasons. For the past 12 years, I have been traveling to St. Louis, Missouri to receive treatment at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. In 2005, after learning I would need a double lung transplant, my mother and I planned to move from our home in Lexington, Kentucky to St. Louis so I would be closer to the hospital. It was then that my mother became a regular on the Southwest Airlines route between St. Louis and Louisville. Although my mother was traveling to help me, she is 80 years old and needs assistance herself, but I never had to worry. The Southwest Airlines crew was fabulous in offering my mother assistance on each of her trips. Thanks to Southwest Airlines, my mother never missed a beat. She was able to keep up with her life back in Lexington, including being there for the birth of her great-grandchild, all while I continued to receive treatment in St. Louis. After my transplant, there was no airline I trusted more than Southwest to fly me home to see my family and friends for the first time in eight months. Now, nearly seven years later, Southwest continues to be my carrier of choice, but now their service is more important than ever. Unfortunately, my body has started rejecting the lungs, so I continue to travel to St. Louis for a treatment called Photophersis. Thanks to Southwest Airlines’ Medical Transportation Grant Program, I am able to fly once a month for the treatment instead of making the long drive. Southwest Airlines may have no idea it is me sitting in that seat each month. They are keeping me alive each month and helping prevent my body from rejecting my transplanted lungs, and they may not even know it. How ironic is it that Southwest is donating their “air time” to me so that I may keep my “air time!” We are each flying on borrowed wings. I am pictured here (I’m in the middle wearing stripes) with my family, as well as with the family of the woman who donated my lung to me. Her gift gave me a second chance at life, and she inspired my daughter (pictured to my left) to also become an organ donor. Thank you Southwest Airlines for the Medical Transportation Grant Program. In my situation, “air time” is measured in more than just minutes and hours. Thank you so much for all that you have done. You have given me a second chance at life. Over the past five years, Southwest has been humbled to lessen the burden of travel expenses for nearly 20,000 families who are facing serious illness. In 2012, Southwest provided more than $2.4 million in free transportation through our Medical Transportation Grant Program to hospitals and organizations nationwide. Learn more about this amazing program and how nonprofits can apply to participate: http://social.southwest.com/Wym.
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