Southwest Airlines Helps Saves Lives With Its Medical Transportation Grant Program

Feb 4, 2011 1:00 PM ET

Southwest Airlines Blog - Nuts about Southwest

   By: Casey Welch

Stem-cell transplants, rigorous chemotherapy, clinical trials, hospitals – these sound like words you’d read in a medical textbook and, unless you’re a doctor, these are words most people would not want as part of their everyday vocabulary. But for Michelle Salerno, a patient of Loyola University Medical Center, these words were her life for seven years.

In 2002, Michelle was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and the prognosis wasn’t good, but fortunately for Michelle, she’s a fighter.

“I was exhausted and at times I didn’t even know what was going on, but I wouldn’t give up. When one treatment didn’t work, we’d try something else. I knew I could always come back to Loyola and they would find something else. They give me hope. I know they’re fighting for me, too,” Michelle said.

For Michelle, this story has a happy ending. The combination of an effective transplant and a trial treatment has exceeded expectations. She is the healthiest she has been in years. She still travels to Loyola every three weeks to receive an infusion of the new drug, but her life has been transformed.

Loyola University Medical Center is a partner in the Southwest Airlines Medical Transportation Grant Program.  Through this program, the medical center distributes complimentary, roundtrip tickets on Southwest Airlines to patients like Michelle who must travel for medical care.  Through the Southwest Airlines Medical Transportation Grant Program, Southwest provides tickets to nonprofit hospitals and medical transportation charities. The tickets are distributed by the organizations to deserving patients and their caregivers.

Today Southwest Airlines announced that more than 60 nonprofit hospitals and charities from across the nation will be participants in its Medical Transportation Grant Program this year. Southwest has nearly doubled the grant program’s 2011 budget with hopes of assisting more than 5,500 patients and family members with their medical-related travel needs. 

“The feedback we receive from families who benefit from the Medical Transportation Grant Program reaffirms for us that we are meeting a great need during what can be a difficult time in these families’ lives,” said Debra Benton, Southwest Airlines Director of Community Relations and Charitable Giving. “Southwest is proud to be able to provide this program to even more nonprofit hospitals and charities as support for families affected by serious illness.”

The Medical Transportation Grant Program is just one way that we partner in the communities where our Employee and Customers live and work.  To read more about Southwest Airlines’ community involvement and to see a full list of partner hospitals across the county, please visit:


About Southwest Airlines
After nearly 40 years of service, Southwest Airlines continues to differentiate itself from other low fare carriers – offering a reliable product with exemplary Customer Service. Southwest Airlines is the nation's largest carrier in terms of originating domestic passengers boarded, now serving 69 cities in 35 states with service to Charleston and Greenville-Spartanburg beginning March 13, 2011, and service to Newark Liberty International beginning March 27, 2011. Southwest also is one of the most honored airlines in the world known for its commitment to the triple bottom line of Performance, People, and Planet. To read more about how Southwest Airlines is doing its part to be a good citizen, visit to read the Southwest Airlines One Report(TM). Based in Dallas, Southwest currently operates more than 3,100 flights a day and has nearly 35,000 Employees systemwide.