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Heart Patient Flies Home For Free This Christmas

EAST BOSTON (CBS) – After undergoing a heart transplant less than two weeks ago, a Rockland, Maine man is getting the ultimate gift this Christmas--a free flight home.

"I don't think there's words in the dictionary, I get teared up just thinking about it," Gene Kelly said.

The 54-year-old has traveled from Rockland to Brigham and Women's Hospital and back 53 separate times, all courtesy of complete strangers.

"When I can come up with the right words they'll know it," Kelly said. "They're an extraordinary group of people."

Kelly has been flown by Patient Airlift Services or PALS at no cost for treatment of his cardiomyopathy for the past seven years. On Wednesday, Pilot Costas Malapanis flew him home for Christmas.

"If I could do it every day of the week, I would do it every day of the week," Malapanis said.

It costs the pilot on average anywhere from $500-$800 out of their own pocket. PALS has been around for 5 years and made 8,800 flights.

"It's invaluable what they do, they save lives," Kelly said.

They say all hearts come home for the holidays. This one is courtesy of those in the cockpit.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Bernice Corpuz reports

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