2013, Mercy Medical Angels celebrated its 100,000th patient mission with a reception and program at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Virginia. In his keynote speech, our President explained the significance of that figure and the importance of MMA to the national need for patient access on into the future.
Good evening, and thank you for coming. I sincerely trust you will enjoy this evening, that you will take the opportunity to meet new friends, and that you will learn things you haven’t known before.
I would hope you will be thinking through the evening about how important this program is for the needy among us throughout the United States – for without MM programs, many cannot afford the long distance travel often necessary to access a medical specialist for evaluation, diagnosis or treatment.
Their need may sound simple – like going from Fairfax to Richmond or Charlottesville – for that is where free clinic patients must go for specialist appointments in Virginia. No way to get there, then no specialist medical care. We support this type of trip for needy patients in Virginia now – about 175 times a month.
Another need….We flew a Maryland family with a very young child to a life saving “one of a kind” infant heart operation done only at Stanford University Hospital in California. The operation saved the child’s life.
You will meet the child’s mother and her thriving daughter later this evening.
The origins of Mercy Medical go back nearly 50 years when I spent the last 3½ years of the 1960’s as a civilian professional engineer with the U.S Air Force traveling from base to base in South Vietnam solving technical problems, and making sure I always ducked at the right time. I hitchhiked to travel around Vietnam in the back ends of Air Force C-130 and C-123K cargo planes – often sitting between rows of stretchers of wounded men headed to a distant military hospital. There were never enough medical attendants, and the nurses just simply expected me to help – not to sleep. That was my introduction to long-distance medical evacuation – and the exposure took.
In early 1970 I was transferred back to Washington, DC into the slightly more settled job as Chief Engineer of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. I again became an active pilot in general aviation in the northern Virginia area and by mid-1972, the long-distance charitable medical air transportation program – later to be known as Mercy Medical Angels – was born. That was more than 103,000 patients ago, and we are here to give thanks to the Lord and celebrate the job so very well done in total safety by a whole cadre of volunteers, office staff, individual supporters, airline sponsors, corporate donors, churches, civic clubs and philanthropic foundation donors.
I thank all of you. We are really celebrating YOU!
As you know, pilots use check lists and flight manuals – but in 1972 when the program first started, I couldn’t find anything written on how to undertake such a task on a nation-wide philanthropic basis. It simply would never work if we tried to charge for our services. The need was there because people could not pay. Some of the needs are mid-night calls for a patient transport to a Pittsburgh transplant center at 2 a.m. in the morning when an organ suddenly becomes available. Most needs, however, are known days in advance and are planned under more calm routine circumstances.
Distances and circumstances vary – so accordingly we select and ensure the provision of the most appropriate form of long-distance charitable transportation. It can be on a commercial airline, in a privately-owned general aviation aircraft flown by a highly qualified volunteer pilot – or it could be a ground mode transport by Greyhound Bus, by AMTRAK, or via a volunteer motor coach driver or in a patient neighbor’s car for which we have provided a gas card. We are very flexible – something government programs simply can’t do.
When I look into the future today, I am seeing the need for long-distance travel for medical purposes growing everywhere around this nation. No matter how hard Washington tries to meet the need, it simply isn’t significantly happening.
Now, if you believe what I am saying, chances are, involvement in this societal issue will be in your personal future as well.
How then shall we proceed to help needy patients, doing it efficiently, doing it with the Good Samaritan’s grace, and thereby honoring our Lord God?
Let me first ask you a few questions:
- Are health care costs going down?
- Is the number of doctors in the marketplace increasing?
- Is the cost of travel going down?
- What about the cost of gasoline?
- Are doctors still coming to see you in your home?
- Does the free clinic, medical facility or specialty hospital come to you?
OK – Then:
- We must complete the health care access mosaic in America. One mode or design simply doesn’t fit all.
- We must make it work efficiently, and we must ensure patient access or there is no point to any of the great medical advances.
The medical academics say it is all about patient access. We agree with them—and we have studied it, worked it, and after 40 years of experience, we believe we have learned how to do it in various efficient and effective ways.
We are Mercy Medical – and we are all about patient access now and into the future.
I invite each of you to find a special way you can become a part of completing this medical access mosaic in the United States of America It may save the life of a family member or someone else dear to you.
Mark your calendar for a celebration of the one millionth patient transport. It will happen sooner than you think!
I again than you for coming.