Wrenn’s lung condition made it critical that she be able to fly regularly to St. Louis for treatment.


Air Care: Southwest’s Medical Transportation Grant Program

Sometimes getting urgent medical care requires more than an ambulance ride to the local hospital. When a little girl in Florida named Wrenn was diagnosed at birth with a potentially deadly condition, reaching treatment several states away was a matter of life and death.

“Her lungs couldn’t stay open,” Wrenn’s mother, Nicole Parris, explained. Her baby daughter needed a double-lung transplant. The transplant, in 2011 when Wrenn was just 6 months old, saved her life.  

But she wasn’t out of the woods yet. Doctors told Wrenn’s parents she still faced just a 20 percent chance of seeing her 10th birthday. Wrenn would need to see specialists in St. Louis every six months for treatment. Her parents simply didn’t have the resources for all that travel. That’s when Southwest stepped in, and through the Medical Transportation Grant program, helped provide the family with an ongoing supply of flights. 

When a family is grappling with providing care for a loved one and getting critical medical treatment, it can be hard to know where to turn. It can feel like a miracle to get help for something as essential as transportation to the right specialized care. Thanks to partnerships with dozens of hospitals and medical transport charities, Southwest has created a program that provides tickets through medical Partners that identify and confirm the details of those who need critical support. 

Southwest travel grants allowed Wrenn to see the specialist she needed. Since it started in 2007, the Medical Transportation Grants program has donated more than 96,000 air travel round trips, valued at approximately $38.6 million, to Customers such as Wrenn who needed that life-changing support. In recent years, those grants have averaged more than 6,400 air travel round trips a year. 

Wrenn’s mother, Nicole Parris, thanks Southwest for the help, the tickets, and the support.

“To have these tickets has just changed our life,” said Nicole. 

In many flights over the years, Wrenn has shown she has Warrior Spirit. In her trips between home and the hospital in St. Louis, her penchant for tiaras and fascinators, her smile, and her energy have brightened the day for many Southwest Employees. She also discovered a passion for flying. 

“When I grow up,” she declared one day, “I’m going to be a pilot.” 

Senior Specialist Community Outreach Debbie Wafford, who has met Wrenn (and many other travel grant recipients), calls her “a little ball of energy.” To see her and witness her bright resilience, Debbie says, “It’s inspiring.” 

From a small start with three hospitals and one medical transportation charity, the program has expanded to include 75 nonprofit hospitals and a handful of medical transportation charities.  

Debbie credits the program’s great growth to Southwest’s Leadership Team – for seeing great value in this unique program. “This allowed us to increase the program’s budget over the years which allowed us to support even more nationally-ranked hospitals and special medical transportation charities,” said Debbie.