Atlanta, GA,
14:23 PM

Southwest Airlines Awards Medical Transportation Grant to Shepherd Center for Third Year in a Row

Patients and family members will benefit from donated airline tickets.

Southwest Airlines announced today that Shepherd Center is one of 75 nonprofit hospitals and medical organizations nationwide that will benefit from the company’s 2015 Medical Transportation Grant Program.

This is the third year in a row that Shepherd Center has received the grant, which enables the hospital to provide complimentary, round-trip airline tickets to families in need so they can travel to be with their loved one undergoing specialized spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation care at Shepherd Center.

Receiving world class medical attention is more attainable when the cost of travel is not an issue, according to Southwest Airlines, which is providing more than $3.2 million in free transportation to caregivers and patients seeking medical treatment, a 14 percent increase from the 2014 program. Shepherd Center will receive $60,000 worth of free travel for patients and families for 2015. For a full list of organizations receiving grants in 2015, click here.

“We care about the communities we serve and are honored to partner with like-minded hospitals and medical transportation organizations,” said Linda Rutherford, Southwest Airlines’ Vice President of Communication and Outreach. "We are proud to help fill the gap between where patients live and where the doctors they need practice so patients can receive the treatment that best supports them.”

Since the Southwest Airlines Medical Transportation Grant Program's inception eight years ago, more than $16.4 million in free transportation has been distributed to organizations in 26 states, making a positive impact on the lives of more than 41,000 individuals.

Former Shepherd Center patient Andy Fuhrmann, 25, of Burlington, Vt., and his family are one example of those impacted by the Medical Transportation Grant Program. In 2013, Andy sustained a C-4 to -5 incomplete spinal cord injury in a snow skiing accident that left him partially paralyzed. Andy traveled from his home in Vermont to Atlanta so he could receive treatment at Shepherd Center. Andy’s mom stayed with him to Atlanta. Through the Southwest Airlines Medical Transportation Grant Program, Andy's father, who lives in Holden, Mass., was able to balance work at home while also visiting Andy and his mom in Atlanta. Andy said his parents’ presence during his treatment was just as important as his physical therapy and medical treatment. Read more of Andy’s story by clicking here.

"As one can imagine, when you have a catastrophic injury, finances become tight," said Anna Elmers, M.D., a staff physiatrist at Shepherd Center. "Southwest Airlines' Medical Transportation Grant Program has been a wonderful way of allowing family members to see their loved ones who are undergoing rehabilitation at Shepherd Center. Having loved ones near provides the patient with important emotional support during their recovery. We are so thankful for our partnership with Southwest!"

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.