Archive | Travel for Medical Care

To the Woman in the Red Shirt

You must have followed me around the food court for quite a while.  I wasn’t thinking clearly.  Our first flight had been delayed and now our second flight was delayed.  I was tired.  I was worried about my boy.

I wandered from restaurant to restaurant trying to figure out what food my boy might want; what food his little tummy could handle.  I ended up down the hall, far away from my husband and my son.

I’d left them in a corner while I looked for food.  My boy in a wheelchair, a scar on his head, curled up with his blanket.  My husband, giving our boy pain medication.

I tried to hand the cashier my credit card to pay for the food.  She tried to hand me cash.  I was confused.  I looked around to see who still needed her change.  The cashier kept trying to put the money into my hand.  I asked her what it was.

She said it was my change; that the woman in the red shirt had paid for my food and told her to give me the change.

“What?  Wha…?” My voice trembled.  Tears came to my eyes.  I shook my head over and over as the reality of a stranger’s kindness caught in my throat.

I looked around, desperately looking for you and your red shirt.

I hope you saw me searching for you.  I hope you felt the fullness in my heart.

To the woman in the red shirt…Thank you.  Thank you for feeling.  Thank you for noticing.  Thank you for touching my heart though we’ve never met.





Flights and Hotels for Medical Travel

Most families with special needs children spend a lot of money on therapies, extra doctor appointments, hospital stays, service animals, medical supplies, etc.  The extra costs often result in financial hardship that is often overlooked.

The costs of flights and hotels could make it impossible for someone to receive the medical care they need away from home.  I think most people’s initial reaction to seeking medical help away from home is, “It will be too expensive.”  The generosity of individuals and businesses helps thousands of people get the medical care their families need at a minimal cost.  Let’s talk about the resources available.


A number of charitable organizations exist solely to help people fly to receive medical care.  These flights are made possible through individuals donating their airline miles, corporations offering their corporate jets and airlines donating free tickets to these organizations.  Here is a list of some of those organizations:

Air Care Alliance:

LifeLine Pilots:

Miracle Flights:

National Patient Travel Helpline:  1-800-296-1217

Most of the organizations listed above have a financial need requirement.  The income threshold for most of the organizations is low.  Don’t worry if you don’t meet the financial need requirement.  There is still hope!

Southwest Airlines donates free tickets to most of the companies listed above.  In addition, they donate free tickets DIRECTLY to hospitals.  Even though my family does not qualify for “need” according to the limits set by the companies listed above, we were still able to use the tickets Southwest donated to the Cleveland Clinic.

For me, these tickets lifted two major burdens.

Obviously, using FREE tickets lightened a financial burden during a time when costs for medical care, food, hotel, and rental car accumulated at the same time.

Additionally, when you travel for medical reasons, you often don’t know when you’ll be returning home.  The tickets provided by Southwest allow you to travel anytime they have availability at no cost.  On our last trip to Cleveland, we never knew when we would go home.  It changed every day.  Not worrying about our flight home allowed me to focus my energy on my son and his care rather than on coordinating logistics that constantly fluctuated.  When we finally knew when David would be released from the hospital, I made a quick phone call to make our reservation.  Thank you, Southwest, for removing a heavy burden from me.

If you would like to try to utilize the Southwest tickets, you can either ask your hospital for their medical concierge desk, social services office, development office or grant writer, etc. and ask about the Southwest Medical Transportation Grant Program.  They might have other resources available, too.  However, if you can’t get to the right person, you can call Southwest directly for help getting to the right person at the hospital to which you are traveling.  Southwest can reach out to their contact at the hospital and give them your contact information.  (Southwest is required to go through the hospitals to get you the tickets because of medical privacy laws.)  The phone number at Southwest for this program is  214-792-4103.  You can also make donations to Southwest for this program.  You can find more information regarding the Southwest Medical Transportation Grant Program by clicking on the link.


We love the Ronald McDonald House charities!  Most major cities have a Ronald McDonald House (RMH.)  The RMH asks for a $20/night donation as long as you are with someone being seen in a nearby hospital.  If you can’t afford the $20, you can stay for free.  Most nights, meals are brought in by local families or local organizations.  When we stayed at the RMH is Cleveland, many of the meals were provided by families who had once stayed in a RMH.

We travel to Denver to see a lung specialist for my son, Will.  A private donor pays for hotel rooms at a local hotel for families visiting Denver Children’s Hospital.  The staff at Denver Children’s made all of the arrangements for us.


If you want to seek a second opinion, if you need to travel away from home for medical care…it IS possible!  JUST ASK!  Ask your current doctor where the best surgical center is for your situation.  Ask who the leading expert is for your disease.  Ask who your doctor would recommend for a second opinion.  Ask if they work with them as a team.  Then, call that doctor or hospital and ask about the resources available for traveling from out-of-state or out-of-country.  If the person you are speaking with doesn’t know, ask them who might know.  Keep asking!  I’ve found that each hospital has different protocols and different resources available.  But resources usually ARE available.

I am thankful for the burdens lifted by Southwest Airlines and by the Ronald McDonald House.  I am thankful for individuals who donate hotel rooms and airline miles for others.  I am thankful for all of those who reach out and lift others in times of need.  Thank you for your generosity, for your kindness and for your love.


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