By the time a patient gets to The Johns Hopkins Hospital, we are usually their last stop for hope on what has been a long road in search of the right treatment. Not only is the patient suffering from a life-threatening medical condition, but they have likely already exhausted all financial resources. At this point, though, no distance or amount of money matters; what matters is that they are able to receive the treatment they need before it’s too late. As the administer of the Southwest Airlines’ Medical Transportation Grant Program at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, I have the rare opportunity to connect patients from across the country with the advanced patient care Johns Hopkins has to offer—and hopefully the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. The free transportation provided by Southwest through this unique program helps alleviate some of that burden, allowing families to make a choice they might not have otherwise. Before they sign up for the Southwest program, they talk with me or one of my colleagues to determine eligibility. So far, with the help of Southwest, we have connected more than 674 patients and families from as far as Washington, California, Texas, and Florida with care here in Baltimore. Most likely, people traveling to Johns Hopkins suffer from complex conditions that require many medical visits, and their best outcomes depend on receiving treatment quickly. For some, Johns Hopkins may be the only option. One of our patients used Southwest’s Medical Transportation Grant Program to facilitate a trip to our ataxia telangiectasia clinic, the only one in the country providing treatment for the rare, inherited disease that affects several body systems. Another patient from California used the program to return for a post-kidney transplant biopsy. The program’s flexibility allowed him to change his flight without charge when his doctor asked him to schedule a follow-up appointment. These stories are only a few of many patients who need the right medical treatment at the right time. Whether it be a brain tumor, pancreatic cancer, or other complex illnesses, we at John Hopkins are dedicated to connecting them with what they need, no matter where they live. 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. Stay tuned to the NUTS About Southwest blog every week for more stories from families, patients, and hospitals who have been positively impacted through the Medical Transportation Grant Program.
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