Category Archives: Angel Flight West Families

Stories about Angel Flight West Families

Passengers’ Feedback

After each mission, we send out a Mission Feedback Survey that passengers can fill out to share their experiences with the Mission Operations Team. For many patients traveling to and from treatment, transportation is a significant burden that could block their ability to receive the care that they need. Angel Flight West pilots can make a huge difference in passengers’ lives by volunteering their own skills and resources as pilots. Below are some recent comments from AFW Passengers!

Adrian – New Mexico

Adrian Duran flown by Kyle Scott 11.27.12

Without your service I probably wouldn’t be where I am with getting back to my life. All the pilots are all so kind and very professional . Angel Flight is a organization of all great people. Your center to make flights are all top notch. Thank you so much.

 

Lori  – Southern California

Hi Angels 🙂 I’m sooo grateful for your flights, ground angels, and your wonderful emotional support. It’s hard to say anything could have been better. It made a very difficult time for me so much easier to deal with. Also, I enjoyed the flights.

 

Pamela – Idaho

I’m so grateful for Angel Flight. I cannot sit that long… 60-90 minute flights are so much better than a 5 hour drive. The pilots always made me feel safe. It has been a great experience for me.

 

Daniel – Arizona

We have flown with Angel Flight West since 2011 and have always had great service… I’d like to thank all pilots that donate their time and planes, they’re my husband’s angels.

 

Noah – Northern California

Noah R flown by Christopher Bennett 3.14.14

The pilots and angel flight program were awesome. Every experience was absolutely wonderful. The pilots were very caring and made us feel very comforting in the sky and as well on the ground. God bless the pilots and angel flights.

AFW Requesters – Frequent Comments & Questions

Angel Flight West utilizes aviation to increase health care access in order to improve health outcomes for critically ill people living within its service area.  AFW is focused on increasing requests for service, which have declined in recent years. A requester can be any individual working at a health care facility, including a doctor, nurse, or social worker. Through a survey, AFW sought to better understand social workers’ perceptions of our services and what would better increase their requests. A survey was administered to 1400 social workers and it returned at 17% response. Included in this post are some of our answers to the frequent survey comments and questions we received.

Q: Why does AFW need seven days to arrange a flight? 

  • AFW needs sufficient time to find an available volunteer pilot. Once we receive a request, the data is entered into our database system for pilots to view. It can take some time to find an available pilot on a given day as all AFW pilots are volunteers. Additionally, in most cases, we must find more than one pilot in order to cover both the trip to treatment and the return trip home.
  • For longer trips, over 300 nautical miles, we must split the flight up into a multiple leg relay – it can take up to 3 pilots to travel 800-1000 miles. In these cases, AFW could potentially be looking for six available pilots to cover a patient’s roundtrip flights.
  • Although it lowers the chances of covering flights, we are sometimes able to take shorter notice requests. We have been able to find available pilots on short notice in some cases. This is determined on a case by case basis based on the location of the flight, the number of pilots in that region, and the amount of available flights already scheduled in advance for that day.

Q: Why are you not a guaranteed service?

  • General aviation (GA) aircraft are different from commercial airliners and much more limited by weather conditions. Thunderstorms, icing conditions, and high winds are all factors that can limit a GA pilot’s ability to fly. These decisions usually cannot be made until the day before or even the day of a flight.
  • Because pilots are volunteers, there are some flights where we simply cannot find an available volunteer to fly on a given day.
  • While we are not a 100% guaranteed service, we are proud to note that we only need to cancel 10% of our flights annually. Weather and pilot availability may impact the ability to successfully complete a flight, but we are working towards alternate transportation options to utilize when these things occur.

Q: It is difficult or impossible for my client to have a backup plan. 

  • We understand that sometimes we may be the only resource available to your client. We will work on a flight up until the afternoon prior if necessary. If your patient is able to reschedule, we are always willing to try again for the next week.
  • We are also continuing to grow relationships with other transportation organizations to establish back-up plans as well as actively growing our pilot base to have increased pilot availability. We are sometimes able to book commercial airline tickets through Alaska Airlines or Hawaiian Airlines, or greyhound bus tickets. This is however, an option only available in special circumstances in limited locations.

Q: Why do I need to complete the paperwork and make the request? It is really my client that knows all of that information.

  • All AFW pilots are volunteers, which means that they donate the fully cost of flying their aircraft. Because of their generosity, AFW staff is responsible for making sure flight requests are legitimate and fit within the AFW requirements. We require financial verification of need for assistance and confirmation that a passenger is ambulatory and physically able to fly safely on a non-pressurized aircraft.
  • We can now take requests directly from passengers. In this case, we will take all of the information from the passenger and then seek medical and financial need verification from an official requester at a medical facility. We hope that this will streamline our process significantly and lessen the amount of time required for busy medical professionals.

Thank you again to all social workers who responded to this survey. We learned some very valuable information from you that will help AFW to improve our services and better the process for helping your patients!

The Bingham Family – ‘Against All Odds’

Many of our Angel Flight West families are facing extraordinary circumstances in their daily lives. Our goal is to  ease some of the burden that comes along with serious medical needs by providing free transportation for families in need of a little help. Today, we’d like to share with you the story of the Bingham Family.

The five Bingham children all have a serious heart disease called Cardiomyopathy. Two of the Binghams, including longtime AFW passenger Sierra, have had heart transplants and another sibling has a pacemaker because of this disease. The Binghams’ story was featured as part of a series of NBC’s “Dateline” editions airing in June 2013 about people in remarkable situations. Included below is a link to the episode, which tells the family’s story and showcases their incredible optimism.

Dateline: ‘Against All Odds’, Part 1

The Binghams with AFW Pilot Art

 

You can follow the Binghams’ blog and learn more about what’s being done for them at: www.heartsforbinghams.org

For more information about organ donation, please visit: www.organdonor.gov

We Give Thanks for Many Things

Christian Lybbert flown by command pilot Dale Lamberton 9.24.13
Christian L. flown by command pilot Dale Lamberton 9.24.13

Christian L. was born a healthy little boy on February 28, 2013.  Once home though, his mom worried that his breathing seemed labored and his color wasn’t right–not like the other three babies she’d had.  She was told several times that if he was eating, he was fine. However, at his two-week check-up, Christian was whisked off to the emergency room after the doctors found his oxygen saturation extremely low.  Multiple tests revealed that Christian was suffering with heterotaxy–a disease so rare that it is diagnosed in only one out of every four million births. Babies born with this condition often have organs that are missing, deformed, reversed in their arrangement or misplaced. They diagnosed Christian with a severe heart condition, a missing spleen, multiple organs reversed in the body and duplicates of these. For example, his left lung was where a left lung should be, but was a duplicate of the right lung.

Christian needed very complicated open-heart surgery. While he has great cardiologists near home, the best pediatric cardiac surgeon on the west coast is at Stanford.  With limited resources and the inability to fly commercially due to his compromised immune system, the family would have been forced to drive from Yakima, WA to Palo Alto, CA–a long drive under the best of situations.

Mom, Aimee, was directed to Angel Flight Georgia, and then to AFW from a heterotaxy support page on Facebook.  With a number of challenges both pre- and post-surgery, AFW was able to transport the family.  While we can debate the merits of social media, there isn’t a more meaningful way to use it than the way this family has done. They are thrilled with AFW and Aimee’s Facebook post is the front page article, 10 Reasons We Love AFW. To find out more about Christian and his battle, see his Facebook page at “Christian’s Soldiers.”

First Flight on a Small Plane – From a Teen’s Perspective

Angel Flight West flies patients of all ages to medical treatment. This week, we are going to focus on what it is like for a teenage patient flying to treatment with volunteer pilots. In 2013, Angel Flight West pilots flew a total of 485 flights for 172 passengers age 12-18.  Some of these teens were flying for the first time with AFW and some were longtime passengers continuing their treatment.

Kody took his first flight with Angel Flight West on January 16, 2014 from Nevada to California. Kody is a 16-year-old boy with Stage IV Melanoma. After taking time off from work to care for him, Kody’s parents were not in the financial position to afford travel to a very important clinical trial consultation appointment at UC San Francisco Medical Center.  Kody and his family turned to Leslie, Director of Programs and Services at Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation, for help and were able to set up a mission request with Angel Flight West. We caught up with Kody to find out more about his first experience as an AFW passenger.

Kody and Carmen before their first Angel Flight.
Passenger Kody and his mom Carmen before their first Angel Flight.

Before traveling with AFW volunteer pilots, Kody expected a fast, comfortable flight – a much easier alternative to a long drive from Northern Nevada to San Francisco. He explained that “it meant a lot as it cut a 16 hour round trip into about 4 hours… it was great for my parents because they didn’t have to take extra days off work.” Flying with Angel Flight West really eases the burden for passengers like Kody who may not be able to make a long trip by car. For Kody, traveling long distance meant he “got to fly in four different planes and see places [he] normally drives by look so different from the air.”

Flying in a small aircraft with a volunteer pilot donating their time, money, and aircraft to help those in need can also be a fun experience for passengers. Kody reported that “it was really cool to fly for the first time. I got to fly some of the planes. The pilots explained all of the different controls.” Flying in a small aircraft really gives a passenger the opportunity to see what goes on in-flight. AFW passengers are able to hear the pilot communicating with air traffic control, witness the use of different controls on the dashboard, and sometimes fly a plane for the first time as a “co-pilot” like Kody did!

Angel Flight West volunteer pilots provide non-emergency air travel for passengers of all ages – ranging from infants to teens, like Kody, to adults. The flights donated by AFW pilots enable patients to receive vital treatment that might otherwise be inaccessible because of financial, medical or geographic limitations. If you know someone in need of charitable travel for healthcare, please have them visit http://afids.angelflightwest.org/request-a-flight to request a flight.

 

Angel Flight West from Parents’ Perspectives

Many Angel Flight passengers are children traveling to treatment that is not available to them locally. We’d like to share some letters that we have received from parents as a reminder of the generosity of our pilots. As one parent notes, flying in small aircraft can be a really amazing experience for both children and their parents. It also takes a huge burden off of parents seeking to give their kids access to needed medical treatment. These letters serve as a great reminder of our mission as an organization as well as exemplify how awesome our pilots truly are!

#1:

My name is Ruben. l am writing this letter to Angel flight West. My son is a frequent flyer with angel flight his name is Adriel. They have been helping us since 2006. We appreciate the time that the pilot’s and the team at Angel flight do for us. My son was diagnosed in 2005 with Muscular Dystrophy. We have been going to UCLA for his treatments.l am really grateful for the team and for the pilots that take there time to help family’s like us. Angel Flight has helped my son these last few years taking us to UCLA. In 2010 the doctor’s disabled me so it has been hard for us to travel to UCLA – I’m no longer able to drive so I depend on Angel Flight to help me take me son for treatment. My son loves the flight he gets to see the pilot that help him. I want to say thank you to all the pilots for their time to help Angel flight. And also I’m thankful for the team of Angel flight for helping us in the time of need.

 

#2:

Dear Angel Flight,

The work your organization is doing is remarkable! Thank you for your efforts to book a flight for my daughter to Baltimore so she could see a specialist at the John Hopkins Vaculitis Center. She was not receiving the care she needed here in Oregon. It was not for lack of her doctors trying – they just didn’t fully understand her rare musculitis disorder. Dr. Leo at John’s Hopkins put my daughter on an incredibly strong drug regimen of chemotherapy and immunosuppression. It has only been 3 weeks since we returned and she is already feeling and looking better than she has for over a year. We are so very blessed that your organization saw the need for patients to travel to receive the proper care. Your generosity and hard work enabled us to get the answers we were so desperately seeking. We can’t thank you enough.

Sincerely,

Karen and Alexa

 

#3:

Dear Angel Flight West,

I just wanted to write in let you know you provided me and my son Jesse a flight to Palo Alto, CA on 2/17/2012 for his Dr. apt with Rayvon. I wanted to say thank you very much it was the most beautifulest experience to see all the mountains and snow and everything. It was the best experience we ever been on. My son was truly happy and thankful. Also the pilot Rayvon was a great plot. So thank you once again and look forward to flying again in the future.
Thank you! 🙂 

Sincerely,

Misty & Jesse

 

#4:

To Don (Angel Flight West pilot)

My daughter and I wanted to take a few minutes and say thank you very much. Out of the kindness of your heart you have gone above and beyond your generosity to help us. We can’t thank you enough for what you have done. I hope some day to meet you in person so we can thank you. Thanks for making Ashley’s trip easier and making it possible for her to get her treatment. From a mother’s heart, thank you. May God bless you and your family for the wonderful things you do.

Tina & Ashley

The Spirit of Giving

During the holiday season, we are all reminded of what a joy it is to give, and also, how much joy a gift can bring. We’re a bit spoiled at Angel Flight West, since facilitating the giving of our volunteer pilots is our daily work. About 10 times each day, an Angel Flight West volunteer gives of himself or herself to provide transportation to someone else in need.

We’d like to share a letter that we received from a recent passenger as a reminder of how powerful and meaningful a gift can be. It was a great way for us to end the year, and we hope you enjoy it as well.


I am so incredibly grateful and humbled by people more often lately than I ever have in my life. If there is a bright side to cancer, it is that it can really reveal the true kindness and generosity of not only the people close to you, but of strangers-especially when we live in such a world today that is viewed as cruel and strangers not to be trusted. I am lucky enough to have witnessed a silver lining to that many times in the last couple of years that I have been battling cancer, but none so great involving complete strangers as my treatment situation 2 weeks ago.

My bi-monthly treatments for stage 4 Kidney Cancer take place through a study being done in L.A. I am living in Southern Utah, so getting to California every 2 weeks for my appointments can be quite a task. I try to drive, but I don’t have the best car to put all the wear and tear on and of course, along with hotel stay and food in California, the gas and occasional rental car costs can add up (not to mention taking that drive every other weekend is just plain tiring!) I am a recent college grad and also just moved away from my whole life in Chicago to Utah recently, so funds for all of these unforeseeable treatment costs aren’t exactly available to say the least. Needless to say, I need help. 

This is why I decided to submit to Angel Flight West to see if I could get ride every once in a while to treatments to save time and costs. My last treatment, I was lucky enough not only to have my father from Chicago there with me, but also that the wonderful Rod McDermott voluntarily picked up my request. We had a delightful, easy flight with this incredibly kind man and were able to get to L.A. in time for my appointment. Unfortunately, complications still often arise with these appointments. One was that we needed a place to stay for under $100 for the night (my treatment study will only reimburse up to $100/night for a hotel) and we were also worried that we would not have a way back home. The weather was bad, so no pilot could pick up my requested flight home, and renting a car in one state and driving it to another would create costs that I just could not afford. Even as a cancer patient, I also have to work, and I could not afford to wait out the the weather in California and stay for days until the storms passed. 

However, the generosity of strangers was about to surprise me again. Rod, my pilot, called the Westin Bonaventure and the gracious people at the beautiful hotel were able to accommodate my father and I for the night. Then Mark DiLullo, the owner of Threshold Aviation, got word of my situation and offered a private driver to take us back all the way to Southern Utah the next day. I could not believe my luck and the immense generosity of all of these people I had never met. I am so thankful that everything worked out so perfectly for me for this originally stressful appointment; I only wish that there was a way I could repay these amazing people and businesses.

What I can do at this moment is write this short letter, humbly thanking the people who were so selfless as to help me out: Angel Flight West, Rod McDermott, Mark DiLullo and Threshold Aviation, the Westin Bonaventure, and the incredibly kind man who drove us all the way from L.A. to California (I feel terrible that I cannot remember his name, because I will always remember his sweet personality and deed.) I only hope that others see this and know what good they did, what good people they all are. Again, thank you.

 Melanie

December 18 Photo Gallery

Enjoy some photos from some of our recent missions.

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A Blog from Passenger Miriam Bobkoff about her travels with Angel Flight West

Read this inspiring blog from a recent passenger about her travels with Angel Flight West: