How Southwest Airlines Medical Transportation Grant Program Brought Life to My Family

Feb 6, 2014 11:00 AM ET

This is a guest blog post by Amy Shaw, mother of Toby, a Southwest Airilnes Medical Transportation Grant recipient.

Toby is a magical kid. He lives as though it’s is his job to bring everyone joy- and he has brought so much joy to our family! But, we didn’t always have Toby in our family; we adopted him about a year ago from China. 

Adoption was not always our family plan. We had delighted in the birth of four biological babies, but suffered the loss of three others. We became aware of the huge need for families for the hundreds of millions of orphans in the world, and decided that since we were a family who had lost children, we could also be a family for children who had lost their own birth families

Because we were an adoptive family, we were able to read Toby’s medical file. He had a scary-sounding special need called Arthrogyrposis Multiplex Congenital (AMC), which affects the mobility in the joints of his wrists, arms, and elbows. Honestly, it was more than I had thought of taking on for a child, but we ended up saying “YES” to Toby because we knew in our hearts that he was our child. We would do whatever it took to help him because he was our son, just as we would if one of our other children had this condition. 

After adopting Toby, we received advice to take him immediately to the Shriner’s Hospital in Philadelphia, home to the best surgeons for AMC care. We knew that this would be the best plan for his care, but we had not yet worked out how we would get to the hospital in Philadelphia from our home in Ohio (a 12-hour drive). There was no easy way to make the journey.

We first heard of Southwest Airline’s Medical Transportation Grant Program through Miracle Flights. The program has become the link between our home and the specialists at Shriner’s- because of this program, Toby is able to get the care he needs most.  Southwest has so generously provided free airfare that whenever Toby needs to be seen for a broken bone, a surgery, or a follow up visit, we are able to fly to and from his appointment without cost. This is an enormous blessing in our lives as a large family, especially as we have most recently said “YES” again to another special-needs child from China. 

Since seeing the doctors at Shriners, Toby has had surgery to release his right elbow. Without this care, Toby would be unable to feed himself. He would be unable to bend his arm at the elbow and would continue to break it when he falls. Toby would not have been able to scratch his cheek when it itches, talk on a toy phone, or play “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. 

We know that not only Toby but countless children (and soon our own new daughter, Esty, who is diagnosed with spinal bifida) will be able to get the best possible medical care for their needs through this program. Southwest is filing the gap between where families live and where the best doctors are serving. We are so grateful for this program- it has truly made a difference in the life of our delightful son, Toby!