Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why We Fly

by Cody Welch, President, Wings of Mercy East Michigan

I thought that I would share today's Mission #1375 (Line #1470) with all of you. It really moved me and served as further evidence that what we do is so very special.

The Recipient was a very ill 62 year old. She arrived at the Asheville (NC) Airport this morning at 7:30 via ambulance from the Hospital where she had been receiving Cancer treatment. She was on Oxygen and the EMT advised that she would go downhill quickly if it wasn't available. She was quite frail. It is unlikely that she would have been able to use commercial air carriers. I boarded the ambulance and visited with her while my co-pilot secured the large tank so that it wouldn't be a missile in turbulence. She was a live wire. She was witty and funny-an absolute pleasure. I had briefed my co-pilot (an EMT also) that he may be needed in flight. He was more than ready but she actually thrived on the 2:35 flight at FL 230. Along the way I asked her why she was headed to Michigan. She said that she was going to move in with her friend. She was born and raised in Saginaw and Higgins Lake. She has been in the Asheville area for a long time. What follows next gripped me and compelled me to write you.

Her friend, age 70, arrived at the plane at Oscoda in a very beat up 30 year old Suburban. He cornered me before he went to greet our Recipient and asked if I knew what was going on. I said that I was not aware. He said the she was an awesome woman that he should have married 25-30 years ago. He said that he had always been in love with her. He said that they were long time friends but that he married another woman. That woman died 1 year ago. Somehow he stayed in touch with her and insisted that rather than be alone with a grave illness (she is very ill with Cancer) that she should be with someone who loves her and will take care of her. She accepted. We facilitated. Wow. These two drove off in that beat up, rusted out Suburban like teenagers in love. I don't know the particulars but get the impression that her days are limited. I also get the impression that all is now right in both of their worlds.

This mission came together quite quickly. I had been following Elaine's emails all week and knew that this mission was not getting any volunteers. I called her yesterday to see how it was going and the wheels started to turn. At the time I was demonstrating [a privately-owned] Jetprop in Philadelphia. I was by myself. The demo was just finishing for the owner pilot and his young fully rated pilot Pete. I asked the prospect if he thought that his young protege would be interested in getting several hours in a Jetprop. I then called [the airplane owner] to see if he was interested in allowing his plane to be used for this purpose. Within an hour we put together a mission and headed for the overnight in Asheville. Meanwhile I got Jackie to make hangar and hotel arrangements as well as secure a discount for fuel. Elaine emailed all of the paperwork. When we got to Asheville, everything was in place. The hotel van took us straight to Wal-Mart for toiletries (no bags with us) and Blankets, Pillows, Water etc for our Recipient. We got a Subway at Wal-Mart to go then headed back to the Motel where we completed Pete's pilot application and volunteer waiver (while dining), faxed the doc's back to Elaine, listed Pete on a Delta Buddy Pass back to Newark and somehow hit the sack by 10PM. This morning the flight was very smooth with light chop perhaps 5% of the flight. After re-fueling at Oscoda, I flew Pete back to DTW and he made his tight connection back to EWR. [The owner's] Jetprop is back in my hangar and hopefully has been sold.

Pete is 29, a 4 year pilot and has never seen an airplane used this way. He is a former Cop and EMT who gave up the security to pursue a flying dream. He expects to be hired as a NJ State Trooper soon and will be in the pool to fly EMS Helicopters for New Jersey. Somehow, some way the impression that he formed will help many other people over his lifetime. He is a great young man.

My thanks to Elaine once again for everything. My thanks to the [airplane's owner] for allowing us to use the plane. I am so fortunate that this opportunity came my way. What an honor to be a bit player in our Recipient's life.


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