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

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

Toby waiting in the orphanage to meet our family.

Toby waiting in the orphanage to meet our family.

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.  Our first adoption was from Uganda in 2011, when we brought our beloved, costume-loving son, Zareb, home.  Almost immediately upon the finalization of his adoption in April 2012, we saw the picture of an orphaned boy in China, Toby.

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Our family waiting on paperwork so we can bring Toby home from China.

 

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, 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.

Toby after being home for one week. Look what love does to his face!  He had not had his surgery on his right arm yet, but you can see he had fallen and broken his left elbow.

Toby after being home for one week. Look what love does to his face! He had not had his surgery on his right arm yet, but you can see he had fallen and broken his left elbow.

After adopting Toby, we received advice to take him immediately to the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia, home to the best surgeons for AMC. 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.

Side-by-side comparison from the day we got Toby from the orphanage, to being home for six months.

Side-by-side comparison from the day we got Toby from the orphanage, to being home for six months.

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 Shriners.  Because of this program, Toby is able to get the care he needs.  Southwest has so generously provided transportation 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 arms at the elbow and would continue to risk breaking 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.”

With Toby home in our arms! Note his splint, this was taken about six weeks post-surgery at Shriners.

With Toby home in our arms! Note his splint, this was taken about six weeks post-surgery at Shriners.

We know that not only Toby but countless children (and soon our own new daughter, Esty, who is diagnosed with Spina 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 and the huge difference it is making in the life of our delightful son, Toby!

Amy is a vivacious mother of seven who loves fitness, art, and advocating for orphans who need families. She blogs at feet2ourfaith.blogspot.com.