A Social Worker Speaks
Twenty five years ago, when I began working at the UCLA Oncology Center, a gentleman (Jim Weaver) walked into my office to tell me about a program called Angel Flight. My first question, after picking my jaw up off the floor was, “What’s the catch?” He had to work hard to convince me that there was none and that they were sincerely offering to fly my cancer patients to treatment at UCLA for free. But that wasn’t all. The pilots and staff took a personal interest in the patients and made them feel like family. Some of them even offered to drive the patients from the airport to UCLA. I wondered how long something this wonderful could last.
I am pleased to say that things have only changed for the better. They now offer Earth Angels who are volunteers that drive patients from the airport to their treatment appointments. This remains the most charitable organization I have ever worked with. They are in it for the combination of a love of flying and helping others. There are no strings attached. They act as though we are doing them the favor by allowing them to reach out to patients and families. Please honor their good work with your financial support. They make it possible for us to offer life-saving treatments to those who would not otherwise have access to highly specialized care.
I would be happy to speak with anyone who needed more information about this remarkable group of people.
Thank you Angel Flight!
Cheryl Abe, MSW, LCSW
UCLA Oncology Center
Sawyer has Jeune’s Syndrome, also called Asphyxiating Thoracic Dystrophy. His ribs are small and do not grow correctly which doesn’t allow his lungs to grow and inflate properly.
When he was 13 months old, he had the first of 2 titanium rib implants placed in his ribcage. These are expandable to “grow” his ribcage for him. He has had surgery about every 6 months since then. He has had over 13 surgeries.The surgeon who developed this procedure is at Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital in San Antonio, TX.
Angel Flight West has flown Sawyer on 5 AFW missions since March of 2007; the last one was in April 2008. The continual expansion has allowed Sawyer to be pretty much like other kids his age. He goes to school, sings in the church choir and is a purple belt in tae kwon do. He does require oxygen all the time, but that does not slow him down.
Sawyer had his last surgery in April and we flew Angel Flight to get there and back. It looks like Sawyer may not need to fly for treatment anymore; his surgeon is moving to Pennsylvania and not doing more research. Sawyer’s family decided to go with a doctor in Denver instead of the new doctor who is taking over in San Antonio. It’s been a hard decision, but having family and friends around during treatment will be great. Sawyer is looking forward to his 8th birthday and he starts the second grade this fall. Sawyer and his family are very happy to have had AFW to turn to when they needed help with commuting back and forth from Denver to San Antonio, Texas.
Angel Flight is Rewarding Experience by Carol Andrews
"Precious cargo" kept running through my mind as I strapped the two little boys into the back of my Tiger for an Angel Flight mission. Aisha A. watched from outside, with that "this is going to be FUN!" mom's grin pasted on her face. But I knew that inside, like me, she was thinking: their first flight in a small plane, their first week away from mom. And the responsibility of what I was doing struck me, as it always does: putting her children into my care; someone she just met ½ hour ago, trusting I will get them to their destination safely while making it a lifelong-remembered positive experience. They were going to camp for the hearing impaired in the Sierra Nevada foothills above Mariposa. Alex, 9, has been deaf since birth; he communicates by signing, but if you don't know that skill, he shyly lets you know what he wants with gestures and pointing. Dimitri, 7, on the other hand, has hearing and chatters excitedly-to the extent that I ask Tina, my mission assistant and fellow 99, to pull his headphone cords if he is chattering during takeoff and landing. He is attending the camp because his parents feel he will be encouraged to use sign language more if immersed into a weeklong setting where all the other kids are communicating by sign language.It is a surprisingly cool, smooth August morning, and before long, both boys are sound asleep. I'm thinking about landing at the 3300 foot long runway in the foothills, and of the traffic we might encounter from other Angel Flight volunteers delivering kids to camp from all over California. I've filed a flight plan, and ATC takes us within sight of the airport before they drop us.
We are met on the ground by two youthful counselors and a coordinator from the camp. They herd the boys inside, and I leave them with the promise I'll be back the following Sunday to take them home. My last sight of them is with heads together in communication, sharing a chair while they wait for the week to begin.
The following Sunday morning I am met by two completely different boys: a film of Mariposa dirt covers their little brown legs; happy smiles fill their faces, and their arms are loaded with crafts they made during the week and are taking home. Dimitri makes a big show of wanting to get on the bus to return to camp instead of going with me, but he quickly settles into his seat in the airplane when coaxed. They both fall asleep immediately in the air, surrounded by their fragile treasures, pillows, and sleeping bags. I leave them in Marysville an hour later with a relieved mom, and a promise to take them back to camp next year.
Deborah Yost, LMSW
I just wanted to express my appreciation to Angel Flight West. The State of New Mexico has utilized your services for the last year to help transport children in foster care to adoption events and adoptive placements across New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas. Ultimately, your assistance has given our foster children permanent loving homes. This could not have happened without Angel Flight West’s indispensable service.
In June of 2007, Angel Flight West transported six children from Farmington to Santa Fe for an adoption event, “Home on the Range.” Five of the six children were placed into waiting adoptive families from that event. In August of 2007, Angel Flight West transported two children from Farmington to Santa Fe for another adoption event, “Adoption Express.” One child was placed into a waiting adoptive placement from that event. In August of 2007, Angel Flight West transported a child from Las Cruces to Durango to be placed into an adoptive placement. In October of 2007, Angel Flight West flew two children from Farmington to La Junta for a foster to adopt placement. These trips have been life changing for the children who once didn’t have a family.
In 2008, we will be having more adoption events and adoption placements that will require your essential assistance. Without Angel Flight West foster children would not be able to attend these critical events where adoptive families and children come together to meet each other on an informal basis. Thanks again for your help in changing the life of a child.
To all appearances, Taylor was a happy, healthy baby. But when she was nine months old, her parents noticed that the pupil of her left eye was clouded by a foggy, pale white film. Taylor's pediatrician, in her hometown near Salt Lake City, Utah, wasn't able to give them a conclusive diagnosis, so he referred them to a specialist at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles.
The L.A. physician determined that Taylor had retinal blastoma, a rare cancerous tumor that affects only one in 250,000 children. In the worst-case scenario, patients need to have the affected eye, or eyes, removed, but with early diagnosis and treatment there is an amazing 95% recovery rate, with the possibility of only moderate visual impairment.
Taylor needed treatments in both eyes every three weeks, and she needed them to start right away. The problem was that the specialist who could best help her was 700 miles away.
Numb with fear
Chuck and Diana, Taylor's parents, were numb with fear. They dreaded forcing a small child, made sick from the chemotherapy she would need, to travel 1400 miles round-trip every few weeks. In addition, the travel expense would be enormous — on top of the medical costs.
That's when Taylor's parents turned to Angel Flight West.
Every three weeks, volunteer AFW pilots used their own airplanes, and paid for their own fuel, to fly Taylor and her parents from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, and back again. At Children's Hospital, Taylor was given aggressive treatment that included intravenous chemo, intra-eye injections, cryotherapy, and laser therapy — quite a lot for a little girl to endure. Sometimes, the nausea from the chemo made Taylor throw up on the flight home. Of course, the pilots never complained.
One less thing to worry about
For Taylor, her many flights with AFW had two advantages. They were far less stressful than having to travel on crowded commercial airlines from busy airports. And they helped protect her from many of the germs she would have been exposed to — a real benefit for a little girl whose immune system had been weakened by chemotherapy.
As for Taylor's parents, AFW's help meant they had one less thing to worry about during a tragic time in their lives. They had the assurance of knowing that, thanks to Angel Flight West, they would always be able to get Taylor to the lifesaving treatment she needed.
The tumor is gone
It responded well to treatment, and as her tumor began to shrink, the trips were cut back to every six weeks. Now almost three years old, Taylor is an active, inquisitive child — and healthy in every way. Not only has the tumor disappeared, but Taylor has maintained her sight in both eyes, with only a slight loss of peripheral vision.
"They feel like family to us," Taylor's dad says about the AFW pilots who flew his little girl so many times. "They've given us the life of our daughter. Taylor will grow up and see this beautiful world, and we will tell her stories and show her the pictures, and she will understand just how much those pilots did for her."