Struggling with Autoimmune Disease

Nicole lives in Kentucky. The state is home to horse racing and boasts beautiful scenery. However, Nicole’s life isn’t easy. She has two forms of autoimmune disease, both of which harm her liver.

Race Against Time with Autoimmune Disease

A living donor transplant would give Nicole the best shot at healing from the autoimmune disease. Her sister was a match. “My sister is a hero,” said Nicole, “and gave me the gift of life by sharing half her liver.”

But living donor transplants are unavailable in Kentucky. Nicole would have to fly to University of Maryland in Baltimore. “I have been out of work due to my illness,” said Nicole. “And medical expenses rack up.”

With her medical costs rising, Nicole couldn’t afford the airfare to Baltimore. She was racing against time.

Flying Free

That was when Nicole found out about Mercy Medical Angels. Through a partnership with Southwest, Nicole was able to fly to Baltimore.

“My transplant team is in Baltimore,” said Nicole, “and they are able to handle my complicated medical case.”
When she got to the airport, Mercy Medical Angels coordinated with Southwest so she could have a wheelchair. She needed to do all her traveling on the same day as her appointment. Mercy Medical Angels and the airline accommodated for this as well.

Winner’s Circle

Thankfully for Nicole, the living donor transplant was successful. Her autoimmune disease is under control. Best of all, she’s on the way to healing.

She’s grateful for the assistance that Mercy Medical Angels and Southwest provided. “Mercy Medical Angels and Southwest saved the day, three times now!”

When autoimmune disease affects someone’s life, it can seem like they’re losing a race. Thanks to Mercy Medical Angels and Southwest, patients like Nicole have a chance to stand in the winner’s circle.

Tough Problems for a Teen

Jaidyn is a teen girl who lives in Missouri. She has multiple conditions that prevent her from living life to the fullest. She needed a feeding tube and a wheelchair to go long distances. Her mother, Tamena, was determined to help Jaidyn get better. “She has been fighting for almost three years to get back to being a normal, healthy teen,” said Tamena.The best doctors that could help Jaidyn were in Boston, MA. Jaidyn lives in Missouri – a distance of more than 1,000 miles. Round-trip airfare was extremely expensive. “Traveling back and forth so many times a year began to take a toll on our family,” said Tamena. “The thought of not being able to continue treatment because we couldn’t afford travel was such a weight for us.”

Flying Southwest

Thankfully for Jaidyn, Tamena found out about Mercy Medical Angels. The charity has a partnership with Southwest, which enabled Jaidyn to fly to Boston. Tamena is very happy with the experience of flying with Southwest. “If I have the option to pick an airline, Southwest would be our first.”

Some airlines have caused Jaidyn an unhealthy amount of embarrassment. They ask why a teen like Jaidyn needs a wheelchair. “She’s so young and doesn’t have a feeding tube hanging from her nose,” said Tamena. “This leads to the uncomfortable conversation… I can see her go from hopeful to embarrassed.”

However, Southwest doesn’t do that. “They always get Jaidyn the help she needs,” said Tamena, “and she is checked on by attendants during the trip.” The flights are consistently on time, “so we have never had to worry about missing a doctor’s appointment.”

“We have had nothing but a positive experience with Southwest.”

Healing and Hope

Tamena says that Jaidyn’s experience with Mercy Medical Angels and Southwest has been “renewing.” She adds, “This is so important, and the feeling is indescribable.”

When asked what she would say to donors, Tamena speaks from her heart. “Mercy Medical Angels touches and helps families in so many different ways,” she says. “Your gift aids in healing and recovery.”

When a teen like Jaidyn faces health problems, their lives are disrupted. But there is good news: Mercy Medical Angels and Southwest are there to help. Even when illness puts dark clouds over life, Mercy Medical Angels and Southwest will help teens and their families find healing and hope.

teen smiling
Jaidyn is on her way to healing and hope!

Operation Needed

Donna lives just outside Philadelphia. The city is famous for its role in history, holding artifacts such as the Liberty Bell. Unfortunately, Donna and the bell have something in common: damage. A rare disease takes a toll on Donna’s health. The only way to treat this was a complicated operation. “I could not find the help I needed where I live.” said Donna.

After much prayer and research, Donna found a surgeon in Fort Myers, Florida. “It was a journey for me, trying to find the right surgeon with the best outcome,” said Donna. This one was one of the best in his field, and could help Donna through the “very complicated” operation. “He is highly skilled and was willing to do his best to regain my quality of life.”

There was just one problem. Donna was unable to afford the cost of travel to Florida.

Making Contact

At a desperate moment, Donna found out about Mercy Medical Angels. The non-profit has a partnership with American Airlines, enabling patients to fly to medical care. “I contacted Mercy Medical Angels,” said Donna, “and I was approved!” Donna also needed a companion to assist before and after her operation. Mercy Medical Angels was able to help her with that as well. She and her companion could have round-trip tickets from Philadelphia to Florida.

“Mercy Medical Angels books our flights, requests a wheelchair, and secures our seats,” said Donna. “Everyone was so nice to us.”

Uplifting Results

Donna’s operation was successful. After that, the flight home was “easy to manage.” She’s now back home in Philadelphia, resting and regaining her strength.

“Many doors were opened,” said Donna, “when Mercy Medical Angels came through for me.” She adds, “I was well taken care of the whole time. My gratitude goes deep!”

Thanks to Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines, patients like Donna can travel to a life-changing operation. From there, the partnership lifts them to a better life.

Bright Beginnings

Kyle was born in January, at an hour before the sun had risen. His mother, Brianna, “fell in love at first sight. He was so pure and perfect.” Brianna hoped Kyle would have a bright future.

Dark Shadow

Fast forward to June 2018, when Kyle was two and a half years old. Life was looking bright – until a dog brutally attacked him. Brianna rushed to the nearest hospital.

“Kyle’s body was lifeless in my arms,” said Brianna. “My heart broke as I was crying to the Lord, begging not to take away my heart and joy.”

When they arrived at the hospital, the doctors found Kyle a room and started treating his injuries. Even Brianna needed medical attention. The stress and fear of possibly losing her child prevented her from breathing normally.

Little Fighter

Two weeks passed. Kyle was put on life support and was in a coma. “But baby Kyle was a fighter,” said Brianna. “All the doctors and nurses who took care of him fell in love with him.” Kyle continued to show progress, despite the grim odds. Kyle became known as “the miracle boy” around the hospital. His healing brought a bright light to all who took care of him.

Eventually, doctors told Brianna that Kyle could hear her. Brianna began to sing to him. As she sang, “tears dripped from my eyes.” Kyle was only responsive to Brianna’s voice. For a long span of 54 days, Kyle was in the hospital. He could only breathe with a tracheostomy tube. On top of this, Kyle still needed maxillofacial surgery to correct his broken jaw.

Bright Flight

One of the doctors had told Brianna that World Pediatric Project might be able to help Kyle. Two representatives from the organization came to visit them. They knew of a doctor who could help Kyle. This doctor was based at VCU. The problem was, VCU was thousands of miles away from Belize, Kyle’s home country. “We could have never come up with the money to travel on our own,” said Brianna.

That was when Mercy Medical Angels came in. Through a partnership with American Airlines’ Miles for Our Wellbeing program, Kyle was able to fly from Belize to VCU. The first flight to treatment resulted in a surgery that put plates in Kyle’s face, to set the broken bones in his jaw. For the second operation, the plates were removed. In addition, Kyle no longer needed the tracheostomy tube to help him breathe, so doctors removed it – “which we are so happy about!”

Towards the Sunrise

Almost a year has passed since Kyle’s accident. “He’s on his way to a strong recovery,” said Brianna. She had been “lost and confused” when the injury dimmed chances at a bright future. Brianna had been worried that Kyle would have lived with constant suffering. She was also concerned that Kyle would be bullied at school “for something that had caused him so much pain.”

When asked what she would say to donors, Brianna chokes up. “Without you,” said Brianna, “who knows what the outcome would have been?”

“Kyle was one of many who got the opportunity of a lifetime, thanks to you.”

When illness and injury cast shadows on a child’s life, the situation can look truly hopeless. Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines change this. With the help of Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines, children like Kyle can travel towards the bright sunrise of hope.

bright future child
Kyle has a bright future ahead of him!

Rare Disease Diagnosis

Megan lives in Southern California. The area is known for sunny skies and warm weather year-round. It’s also a place of glamour and entertainment, home to Hollywood and the original Disneyland. However, Megan’s life isn’t all sunshine, smiles, and stars. She has a rare disease. Specifically, she has Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome (MALS).

She suffered “non-stop pain and nausea” for almost two years before receiving the MALS diagnosis. Then Megan ran into yet another problem. Megan said, “There are very few doctors where I live who are knowledgeable of this rare disease.” She had to go elsewhere for treatment.

Megan’s Flight

The best treatment option for Megan was a corrective surgery. She would have to fly to Cleveland Clinic. However, the renowned clinic was almost 2,000 miles away. Round trip airfare would drain Megan’s limited resources. She was still suffering from chronic abdominal pain, causing her quality of life to plummet.

That was when Megan found out about Mercy Medical Angels. The charity arranged a round trip flight through Southwest Airlines and the Hogan Foundation. Megan traveled from her home in Southern California to Cleveland Clinic. “Without Mercy Medical Angels, the Hogan Foundation, and Southwest Airlines,” said Megan, “there’s no way this would have been possible.”

The surgery was successful. After that, Megan had to stay for a week in Cleveland. Then she was able to return home.

Unstoppable

Nowadays, Megan is doing much better. She says that the transportation increased her quality of life. Also, the flights helped her to maintain physical and mental wellness.

When asked what she would say to donors, Megan’s answer spills forth in gratitude and joy. “Mercy Medical Angels, the Hogan Foundation, and Southwest Airlines were there for me at one of the toughest times of my life. I can’t thank them enough! Forever grateful!”

Sometimes a rare disease puts life on hold. But thanks to Mercy Medical Angels, the Hogan Foundation, and Southwest Airlines, Megan is unstoppable!

rare disease patient smiling
Megan won’t let a rare disease stop her!

From Smile to Sadness

When you think of a smile, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of a teen who just got their braces off. Or maybe you think of a child, “flying” on a swing set. Perhaps you think of relatives or friends seeing each other after a long time apart.

Mike is different from all of these people. One day, his health wasn’t something to smile about. He was diagnosed with a chronic kidney disease.

“Prior to my kidney transplant, I was on dialysis,” said Mike. The dialysis drained his energy. He became weaker, and often suffered from fatigue.

Hopes Dashed…

Mike had one chance at regaining his quality of life. He would need a kidney transplant. The best hospital to treat him was Iowa Methodist Medical Center.

However, this hospital was far away from his home. Airfare would have been too expensive. “This would not have been possible due to the cost of air travel,” said Mike.

Mike’s hopes were dashed. It seemed he had no more reasons to smile.

…And Restored

Thankfully for Mike, Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines were able to help. Mercy Medical Angels coordinated trips through American Airlines. This enabled Mike to travel to Iowa for the care he needed.

“Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines were instrumental in getting me listed for kidney and follow-up evaluations,” said Mike. These steps were necessary to receive his kidney transplant. Since the transplant was performed, his quality of life has dramatically increased.

“I have a better quality of life, with no dialysis,” said Mike. “I’m feeling the way I was prior to being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.”

Healthy and Happy

In one word, Mike describes Mercy Medical Angels as a “blessing.” When asked what he would say to potential donors, he speaks from the heart. “You are changing people’s lives,” he says. Then he continues. “You’re giving them a new outlook, a better quality of life, and hope of a better future.”

Mike has to fly back and forth for the next year or so. The transplant requires follow-up appointments. Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines will continue to help him by providing charitable transportation.

Now that Mike is healthier, he’s also happier. When people like Mike need transplants, Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines help them heal with a smile.

mike outside hospital with a smile
Mike is healing with a smile!

Mercy Medical Angels - Spring 2019 newsletter

Constant Care for a Child

Mackenzie, a child who lives in Hampton Roads, was born with multiple medical conditions. She has to travel to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters multiple times per week for treatment. However, she also needs more specialized care. The hospital that was best able to help Mackenzie was Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She has to go there once or twice per year.

Uphill Battle

Mackenzie’s mother, Lori, worked as a nurse. However, she has been out of a job for two years. She had to focus on caring for Mackenzie. Also, Lori’s husband is active-duty military. Frequent moves also make it difficult for Lori to find steady employment. The military provides some financial security – but not much. “We are on a very tight budget and it is a struggle some months,” said Lori.

Long-distance travel was draining the family’s resources. Lori was well aware of it, and often worried about her child. “Many times, we were not sure how we were going to pay for gas, tolls, and hotels for Mackenzie to get the care she needs.”

Despite the financial burden, Lori refused to give up on her child. “Not getting the specialized care for Mackenzie is simply not an option.” But getting to that specialized care was becoming increasingly difficult.

Assistance Overcomes Distance

Mercy Medical Angels’ ground transportation program raced to the rescue. The Hampton Roads Community Foundation donated gas cards to Mercy Medical Angels. In turn, the gas cards went to Mackenzie’s family. These gas cards ensured that Mackenzie could travel to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.

But traveling to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia wasn’t as easy. It was too far away for Mackenzie’s family to drive. Again, Mercy Medical Angels was ready to help, this time with volunteer pilots. The volunteer pilots made it possible for Mackenzie to fly to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. When she needed to go to New York one summer, the nonprofit helped yet again.

Never Alone

Lori is extremely grateful for the help Mackenzie is receiving. “You have provided us with very needed assistance for travel,” she said. “We try to stay positive and have faith that things will work out, and you have certainly helped that to be the case.”

Mackenzie has a long road ahead. But she doesn’t have to travel it alone… because Mercy Medical Angels is helping her to go the distance.

child with doctor
Mackenzie is going the distance for treatment!

Spinal Problems

Michael, an 11 year old boy, lives in Virginia Beach with his parents. Like most children his age, he wants to play without problems. However, his health prevents him from doing that. Michael has two spinal conditions.

Craniocervical instability, or CCI for short, is when the connective tissue in the head and neck is unusually weak. This can lead to nerve death, compressing the brain stem, and other complications. Syringomyelia is when cysts form in the spinal cord. This can cause chronic pain, loss of motor control, and scoliosis (when the spine curves sideways).

Surgery can successfully treat these two spinal conditions if they’re caught early enough. Michael wasn’t so lucky. “His local neurosurgeons didn’t see either of the conditions,” said Erin, Michael’s mother. “He can’t do the things a normal 11-year-old can do.”

Major Burdens…

As it turned out, the best doctor for Michael was in New York City, at Weill Cornell Medicine. However, the family is on a limited income. Both of his parents live with disabilities. Driving to New York City would take multiple hours. A round-trip flight would drain the family’s finances.

If the two conditions were left untreated, Michael’s quality of life would only deteriorate as time went on. Michael’s family was losing time – and hope.

…Now Lifted

Mercy Medical Angels was able to find Michael a flight to New York City. A partnership with American Airlines lifted the burden of paying for a round-trip flight. Dr. Greenville at Weill Cornell Medicine was able to help Michael.

A Bright Future

Michael’s two spinal conditions are undergoing treatment and getting better. Erin has hope for the future: “Someday, Michael will be able to do what his peers can do.”

Michael’s quality of life is increasing. Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines will continue to help him travel to treatment. When children like Michael face challenges, Mercy Medical Angels empowers them to never give up.

Burn Awareness Week

The first full week in February is Burn Awarness Week. Prevention, treatment, and safety are all important. With that in mind, Mercy Medical Angels would like to share some information about burns.

By the Numbers

According to a 2015 report by the American Burn Association, burn injuries affect many individuals. Approximately 486,000 people were treated for burn injuries in 2015; 40,000 of these burn victims were hospitalized. Fire-related burns accounted for 43{f77eda0a441a5392985456a36d9467949e304252615cb77080f0e5eccc27b851}. Scalding was a close second at 34{f77eda0a441a5392985456a36d9467949e304252615cb77080f0e5eccc27b851}. Contact burns came in third at 9{f77eda0a441a5392985456a36d9467949e304252615cb77080f0e5eccc27b851}. Electrical burns were at 4{f77eda0a441a5392985456a36d9467949e304252615cb77080f0e5eccc27b851}. Chemical burns made up 3{f77eda0a441a5392985456a36d9467949e304252615cb77080f0e5eccc27b851}. All other burns amounted to 7{f77eda0a441a5392985456a36d9467949e304252615cb77080f0e5eccc27b851}.

Treatment and Healing

First-degree burns involve the outer layer of the skin. Run cool water on the burn for at least five minutes – if they start shivering, turn off the faucet. Don’t reach for the ice pack, as this can make it worse. Aloe helps to soothe the burn, and try a small pain reliever. Don’t use home remedies, such as butters or ointments, as these can trap the heat. Remove all clothing, jewelry, watches, and other accessories ASAP. Cover the burned area with a sterile gauze bandage or clean cloth, but don’t wrap it too tightly. If there are blisters, keep the area intact. If a burn is bigger than the palm of their hand, expands, or they get a fever, seek medical attention.

Second-degree burns affect the first and second layers of the skin. They’re usually red, painful, develop blisters, and can start swelling. If it’s smaller than three inches, you can treat it like a first-degree burn. If it’s bigger than three inches, go to the nearest medical provider for evaluation and treatment.

Third-degree burns harm all skin layers, and can cause permanent damage. The skin might look charred, blackened, or white; it might have a dry, leathery texture. These aren’t minor burns, no matter how small the area is. Get help immediately.

Healing takes several days. Change the wound dressing daily, and observe it for signs of infection. It might start itching uncomfortably; don’t scratch it! Apply a lotion or take an over-the-counter medication such as Benadryl – and always read the directions on the label. Once it’s healed, minimize sun exposure and always wear sun protection.

Safety Q&A

You probably have some questions about burn safety and prevention. Here are some common questions people have about burns – along with answers.

Beware of Unlikely Hazards

  1. Are all burns caused by heat? No. Frostbite and hypothermia can land you in the ER. If you’re out in cold weather, wear warm layers that cover your hands and ears. Take frequent breaks inside with a cup of hot cocoa; steer clear of alcohol or caffeinated drinks. Also, if you see dry ice, don’t touch it!
  2. The coffee overheated and my shower was a little too hot. Are those hazards? Yes. Burns from hot liquid or steam are called scalds. They can cover a larger area than a fire burn. Make sure hot drinks go in spill-proof containers. The temperature for a water heater should be at or below 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If you notice your skin turning red in the shower, cool it off.
  3. The skies are getting dark. Can storms cause burns too? Yes. Get away from water and anything tall, such as a tree. Find shelter and stay there. Lightning is five times hotter than the surface of the sun. The electrical charge can make a bad injury worse.

Stay Safe While Having Fun

  1. It’s a beautiful day! Is it possible to get burned outside? Yes. Make sure your sun protection is at least SPF 30, and re-apply regularly. If a sunburn feels hot, pure aloe helps cool off. Believe it or not, you can get sunburns in winter too, when the light reflects off the snow.
  2. We’re going to a bonfire! Got any safety tips? Make sure that your fire is enclosed in a pit or a ring. Place it downwind from anything flammable. Don’t use chemicals on the fire. Tell people to stay at least three feet away from the flames. Keep the fire manageable and make sure someone has a bucket of water if things get out of hand. To extinguish effectively and stop any embers: douse the fire with water, stir it into the dirt, repeat. Never, under any circumstances, leave a fire unattended! Also, don’t scorch your s’mores – it’s not worth burning your mouth.
  3. Is it OK to use sparklers or fireworks, say, on Fourth of July and New Year? No. Sparklers are hotter than blowtorches. People often suffer from permanent injuries if they set off fireworks. Not to mention, they’re illegal in many states. Leave pyrotechnics to professionals.

Around the House

  1. I want to use the gas fireplace. Does this pose a burn risk? Yes. The glass can reach temperatures up to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. It stays hot for at least an hour after you turn off the gas, and can cause serious burns within seconds. If you have small children, put screen barriers over the glass and use baby gates.
  2. I’m about to cook dinner. Any special instructions? For starters, make sure the kids aren’t playing nearby. Make sure that cords for hot appliances – such as the coffee maker or the sandwich press – aren’t dangling from the counter. Turn handles to the side, away from the burners. To handle hot materials, use oven mitts or potholders, not towels. Wear fitted clothing so it doesn’t flop into the fire. If you’re having a cookout, only use fuel that’s intended for your grill.

Out and About

  1. I’m at the gas station. Is there anything I shouldn’t do? No pumping it into a container that’s touching the car. Never siphon by mouth, because of toxic fumes… not to mention, you could swallow it by accident. In case you somehow manage to ingest gasoline, don’t force yourself to vomit. Finally, no smoking.
  2. What if there are kids around? You know what they say about playing with fire. Lighters, matches, and any flammable materials should be locked up and out of sight. Don’t let kids help with turning on the grill or lighting the birthday candles. Set a good example, and teach them about fire safety in an age-appropriate manner.

In Conclusion…

Burn Awareness Week is only one week in February. But safety and prevention don’t end when the awareness week does. Continue following these tips for the rest of the year, and share the knowledge – because when it comes to burn safety, knowledge is protection!