Families Fly Free for Medical Care

Macie Southern was blue.

Her tiny body did not receive adequate oxygen for 12 hours after she was born. Doctors told Macie’s parents that their newborn might not live, and if she did, she would likely have brain damage. The vessels carrying blood from Macie’s heart to her lungs and body were improperly connected – a congenital heart defect undetected in utero.

Macie’s first open heart surgery was performed at just 7 days old; the second at 12 weeks. A third open heart surgery was necessary, and this time she needed specialized care.

The Southern family traveled from their home in South Carolina to Boston so internationally-recognized pediatric surgeon Dr. Richard Jonas could operate on 8-month-old Macie.

“She did exceptionally well after Dr. Jonas’ surgery,” said Dana Southern, Macie’s mom. “I consider it a miracle that she has remained so stable since then.”

When Dr. Jonas joined Children’s National in 2004, Macie’s care was transferred here too. She is followed by local doctors in South Carolina, but cardiac interventional procedures are performed by the cardiac team at Children’s National here in Washington, D.C.

“There’s a comfort level in coming back to this team,” Dana said. “Dr. Jonas saved Macie’s life. The team knows us, and we know them.”

Families frequently travel great distances to access specialty services and innovative treatments and to help their child heal. Last year, Children’s National cared for patients from all 50 states and 25 countries.

Children’s National is proud to partner with generous supporters to help relieve families of some travel expenses. Last year, Southwest Airlines donated 300 one-way tickets for Children’s National families through its Medical Transportation Grant Program. The Dallas-based airline provided $4 million in travel vouchers to non-profit hospitals and medical programs nationwide in 2017, and has donated $27.6 million in transportation since the program’s inception in 2007.

“At Southwest Airlines, we are passionate about connecting people to what’s important in their lives,” said Debbie Wafford a member of the Community Outreach Team who oversees the Medical Transportation Grant Program. “In addition to connecting families to necessary medical treatment, we hope that the complimentary air travel will reduce the financial burden that oftentimes comes with serious illness.”

Dana Southern recalls her anxiety as she prepared for their first trip to Children’s National – and her lightened load she felt when she learned about the Southwest program.

“It’s one less thing to worry about when you’re concerned about everything,” she said.

Macie, Dana, and dad John have traveled via Southwest’s Medical Transportation Grant program twice, most recently for Macie to be seen by Children’s National’s adult congenital heart disease specialist.

Because of her care at Children’s National, Macie now sports orange and purple for Clemson University, instead of the blue color she was born with. The college sophomore is studying recreation therapy and youth development and wants to work with kids who have special needs.

“I have a heart for children with different challenges,” Macie said. “My medical condition and the care I’ve received changed my life. I’m so excited to continue pursuing my passions and spend my life giving back.”

Learn more about how you can meet the needs of patients and families receiving care at Children’s National. Visit childrensnational.org/giving and make a difference today.

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