When it comes to medical care, transportation is the second most common barrier to cost. And if your means are limited, the specialist hundreds of miles away that you or your child needs may feel out of reach, creating loss of hope and despair.
This is when Angel Flight West (AFW) may swoop in to save the day, and in the Coachella Valley, they are looking for more opportunities to serve.
The network of 1,700 volunteer pilots include retired career pilots, engineers, doctors, and teachers who pay the transportation costs out of their own pocket. They simply love to fly and want to serve. AFW’s administrative team of 7 organizes each “mission” and since their inception in 1983, 62,000 have been accomplished; 4,000 in 2014 alone.
“I really like working with kids,” says volunteer pilot Norm Brod of Hillsborough, CA, who is spending time in the Desert. “Some of these kids have no chance in life, and they deserve a chance.” Brod has worked with AFW for four years and is honored to take part.
At a recent local fundraiser for the organization, I was surprised to learn that one of their challenges is finding patients to serve, especially in this region. “Flying isn’t top of mind if someone has to go to Southern California or Arizona for treatment,” said Executive Director Josh Olson. “But the travel can take its toll if you have to repeat a treatment several times. An aircraft can help ease that burden.”
They are seeking awareness and outreach to hospitals, medical facilities, non-profit organizations and others locally. “We want to get the word out that we are here and available as a free resource to assist patients who may not have the means to travel,” adds Olson. “There is a lot of great health care here, but when a patient is referred out to a specialist, air transportation can often make that referral a reality.” AFW serves the 13 western states and works with sister organizations throughout the country.
The name fits as Angel Flight sounds too good to be true. “Sometimes it is hard to get our foot in the door,” says Olson. “They think there is an ulterior motive, but there’s not. We are ready to serve and looking for the opportunities to do so.”