Southwest Plans Sweet Surprise for 11-Year-Old Girl Returning Home After Surgery for Rare Syndrome


On the morning of Dec. 8, 2011, Kerry and Chris Lynch welcomed Mary Cate into the world. It was only moments after her arrival, though, that they began to understand that something was wrong.

Mary Cate was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit, and by that evening, her concerned parents had a diagnosis: Apert syndrome.

The condition is marked by extra bones and cartilage, which causes fused digits and a misshapen skull. Apert syndrome is so rare (only around 25 children are born with it in the U.S. every year) that mom Kerry couldn’t find much information on it at all — but she did her best to correct that as they went forward by blogging and posting about their journey.

While Mary Cate may look different and struggles with some milestones, she has many of the typical interests of her peers. By age 2, she’d visited many classrooms as part of an effort to help schoolchildren become more understanding and accepting of differences like hers.

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“This is our life,” Kerry Lynch said, according to DNA Info. “We are not going to hide. We are not going to hide her.”

Surgery is a big part of Mary Cate’s life, as her skull does not grow as her brain does, which can cause a long list of complications. She’s now 11 years old, and in September she went in for another surgery that required her to travel from her home in Chicago to Dallas and back.

The surgery went so well that she was discharged early, which meant her parents reached out to the airline they were using to explain their situation and ask to get an earlier flight.

After hearing their story, the airline — Southwest — decided to take the opportunity to not only help out the family but also create a very special surprise celebration for Mary Cate.

“What a week!” a post from the My Mary Cate Facebook page read. “Mary Cate just absolutely rocked this surgery…we get discharged from the PICU yesterday morning and Dr. [Jeffrey] Fearon encouraged us to just get home if it was possible!

“With massive thanks to @Sarah Madden Haffner and @southwestair …we were able to switch up our flights and head straight from Medical City Dallas Childrens to Dallas Love to Chicago Midway to HOME SWEET HOME! We were so nervous how the flight would go with head pressure, But Mare slept the entire flight.

“As you can imagine, walking through the airports to children and adults staring and gasping when they saw Mare was heart wrenching. We got to the gate at Dallas and were welcomed by an incredibly kind southwest crew with smiles and ice cream and gifts for Mary Cate.

“The captain of flight #195 gave her a warm welcome, and then we were so relieved to land in Chicago and again greeted by amazing Southwest crew with cheers and hugs and many more tears!”

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It was a special day that the family was especially grateful for, and Southwest Airlines shared its end of the story this month.

“Mary Cate was born with a rare genetic condition,” Southwest posted on Dec. 13. “She and her family flew to Dallas to get surgery, and the road to recovery would be difficult. After her surgery, Mary Cate was cleared to go back home early to heal.

“Her parents contacted us for help getting on an earlier flight. They had no idea what surprises awaited them at the airport. Our People went above and beyond with a special send off and welcome home, including balloons, a Southwest teddy bear, ice cream, cheers, and more.”

The My Mary Cate Facebook page shared the airline’s story as well, again acknowledging the family’s gratitude for the effort and heart the airline showed.

“Our family / My Mary Cate will never forget the kindness, compassion and smiles from all of you at Dallas Love and at Chicago Midway!” the My Mary Cate Facebook page shared on Dec. 13.

“Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, Southwest Airlines!”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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