Angel Flight gives wings to medical patients in need

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, March 20, 2007

James Lash needed to get to Houston for cancer treatment, whichis a long way from his home in Anderson, SC.

Thanks to Angel Flight, though, he didn’t have to make thefour-day round trip for the medical procedures he needs.

After flying from north Georgia to Tuscaloosa, Ala. and then toBrookhaven with David and Debbie Stout, Lash met Paul Barnett andDr. Don Doty for the final leg of the trip to Houston.

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“This is such a great thing these guys do,” said Lash. “Icouldn’t be more grateful for a service like this.”

Barnett said it’s an easy thing to do when you consider thetrouble it saves people who don’t have the time out of theirschedule – or possibly the money – to travel for medical reasons.There is never a cost for the patient or the health care providerfor the Angel Flight.

“We’re glad to be able to arrange transportation for people likeJamie,” Barnett said.

Barnett said he’s been to Houston before, and so far it’s thelongest flight he’s made for Angel Flight.

“And it’s not a hard trip for us either,” he said. “We’ll beback in four hours.”

The Stouts, who were returning to Tuscaloosa, said Angel Flightis just a way for them to help people who for one reason or anothercan’t help themselves.

“It’s a long way from north Georgia to Houston,” said Stout,speaking of Lash’s trip. “And for us, it’s broken into legs.Usually Angel Flight arranges for us to do 200 to 300 miles at atime.”

Angel Flight is a charity organization organized by pilots whodo all they can to keep the organization non-profit. As such, thepilots provide the support for the organization through donatingthe use of their planes as well as the travel expenses. Otherwise,support comes through the donations of individuals, service clubsand social and religious groups.

“My interest is people helping people,” Barnett said, who’s beeninvolved with Angel Flight since 2004. “Sure I could go buy someonean airline ticket. But when they’re going to a remote location, Ifeel like it’s better if you can provide them that one-on-oneservice connecting them directly to the place of treatment.”

There is always an opportunity to help on the horizon for AngelFlight pilots. Most of the time the program requires around fourdays notice for a flight, but Barnett said there are times a pilotcan sit on call.

“I’m scheduled to take a transplant patient to Oklahoma,” hesaid.

Barnett said it can be a time crunch, but it’s worth it.

“It’s an on-call situation where there’s a kidney patientawaiting a donation, then we have six-eight hours to get them tothe hospital for the transplant,” he said. “It’s about a three-hour20-minute flight, and you can feasibly be in the air an hour afteryou get the call.”

Doty made the flight with Barnett Monday. But it is not thefirst time the two have flown together.

“He’s been to Houston with me before, and sometimes it’s betterto have two pilots when you’re flying into a high-intensityenvironment,” said Barnett. “Plus, my plane is down for routinemaintenance, so we were able to use his aircraft for theflight.”