veteran surviving to thriving

Just Surviving

Wayne is a veteran who lives in El Paso, Texas. His experiences in combat led to PTS. Life was getting difficult for him. It was a matter of just surviving day to day.

“Traditional therapies didn’t help me very much,” said Wayne. He wanted to be thriving, not merely surviving. He began to look for alternatives.

Help Needed…

That was when Wayne discovered a healing retreat for veterans. “Their methodologies are different,” said Wayne, “I’d never seen some of them before.”

However, the retreat facility was in Houston, almost 700 miles away. Wayne couldn’t afford the airfare. Driving for more than ten hours wasn’t a good option either

He needed help getting to the retreat facility.

…and Help Received

Luckily for Wayne, Mercy Medical Angels and Southwest Airlines were able to help. Mercy Medical Angels arranged flights, and Southwest helped pay for the trip.

“I couldn’t have been able to go if it weren’t for Mercy Medical Angels and Southwest Airlines,” said Wayne. He adds, “The flight was great.”

Furthermore, the flight assistance helped him maintain financial stability. This meant he could focus on the retreat and the healing it provided.

Going from Surviving to Thriving

Wayne described his experience at the veterans’ retreat as “education and enlightening.” He also said, “The different methodologies are helping.” Thanks to the retreat – and the flight assistance – he’s maintaining physical and mental wellness.

When asked what he would say to potential donors, Wayne’s voice halts from the overwhelming emotion.

“It’s pretty significant – the statistics on PTS and veterans committing suicide because of it. Mercy Medical Angels and Southwest Airlines – keep people alive. Your donation can do the same – keeping people alive.”

When a veteran like Wayne lives with PTS, surviving can be a day-to-day struggle. But thanks to Mercy Medical Angels and Southwest Airlines, they have a chance at healing and hope. They can increase their quality of life, and go from surviving to thriving.

“ ‘Twas the night before Christmas,” the old poem regales,
But our mascot, Foxtrot, has different tales.

The airport was busy, families came together
Despite the dark night and the icy cold weather.

Other dogs were at home, curled up in their beds
While visions of playtime danced in their heads.

But not Foxtrot; our mascot was sniffing about
He was on a mission to find something out.

Then from Runway B, there arose such a clatter
Foxtrot just had to see what was the matter.

Foxtrot tracked the noise, and ran even faster
Hoping that it didn’t signal disaster.

All of a sudden, he heard a new sound:
A team in distress, falling to the ground.

That’s when he realized he had to act quick
Because the commotion had come from St. Nick!

“Santa,” called Foxtrot, “calm your reindeer!”
But poor Santa panicked – he couldn’t hear.

“Whoa, Dasher! Whoa, Dancer! Whoa, Prancer and Vixen!
Whoa, Comet! Whoa, Cupid! Whoa, Donner and Blitzen!”

“Please, reindeer, calm down! We’re going to fall!
Calm down, please! Calm down, all!”

Foxtrot took off his scarf, the fabric was bright
And waved it, guiding the sleigh through the night.

Santa managed to land, under great stress
The reindeer still acted a nervous mess.

That’s when Foxtrot wondered, “What happened up there?”
Santa sighed in reply, “The reindeer were scared.”

Santa added, “People don’t care anymore
Too focused on settling their own petty scores.”

The sad sentence from Santa made Foxtrot cry.
“I care,” said Foxtrot, “do you want to know why?”

With those words, light bathed the reindeer team
Then, dimming like embers, they lost the gleam.

Foxtrot got an idea, and it gave Santa cheer:
“If care works for me, it should work for reindeer!”

“Well then, Foxtrot,” said Santa, “I know that you care.
What led you to that? Please tell me your share.”

Foxtrot thought for a good long while
Hoping his words would bring back the smile.

“Children whose illnesses leave them in tears
I go on their flights and relieve their fears.”

“Veterans who live with unseen scars
Dogs like me open doors, help them reach for the stars.”

“Cancer patients fighting so hard to live
The gift of life is the best one to give.”

A wonder occured: the more Foxtrot told
The more Santa’s reindeer stood tall, proud, and bold!

Sure enough, Santa’s broad smile came back
Foxtrot patted each reindeer, and adjusted their tack.

“Thank you, Foxtrot, now we’ll be on our way!
You’ve made a difference, and saved the holiday.”

“You’re welcome, Santa! Safe travels up there!”
Starlight on sleigh bells, they took to the air.

But Foxtrot heard kind words, from Santa in flight:
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

neuroblastoma patient now in remission
Maya is beating the odds!

Neuroblastoma Struggles

Maya was only 5 months old when she was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma.The doctors managed to get the cancer into remission. But just before her second birthday, she suffered a relapse. Since then, she’s been in and out of aggressive treatment for neuroblastoma. Her risk for another relapse or developing a secondary cancer is very high, because of all the radiation treatments. Because of this risk, she has to travel to New York for continued monitoring and treatment.

“Sometimes we had to travel as often as every two weeks, or monthly,” said Amber, who is Maya’s mother. “We have been traveling for nearly ten years. Even though she only needs to go a few times a year now, it has become extremely difficult for us to pay for travel.”

Odds Are Difficult With Neuroblastoma…

Aside from being in and out of the hospital, Maya’s family doesn’t have the resources to pay for repeated flights to New York. Worse, Maya and her family lives in California – almost 2,500 miles away from the treatment center. But the long-distance travel to treatment is saving her life, and preventing further problems.

Maya’s life was hanging in the balance. The odds were difficult enough without the added burden of traveling to treatment. Her family was running out of resources – and worse, running out of time.

…But Not Impossible

That’s when Mercy Medical Angels and Hogan Foundation stepped in. Mercy Medical Angels arranged travel from Maya’s home in California to to New York, while Hogan Foundation paid for the tickets.

“They really saved money we didn’t have,” said Amber. “Providing us with flights covered the financial costs of transportation to Maya’s cancer treatment.” She adds, “We are so appreciative.”

“A Special Group of Angels”

Now, Maya is 12 years old and doing much better. She will need help getting to her treatments for neuroblastoma in the future. Mercy Medical Angels and Hogan Foundation will continue to help her get there.

Amber has a message to potential donors: “If someone asked me whether they should give to Mercy Medical Angels, I would tell them they absolutely should!” She adds, “I would tell our story and explain how we wouldn’t be able to continue treatment without them.”

“They’re an amazing organization… what a special group of angels!”

Flights For Her Heart

Tabitha has flown with the volunteer pilot program of Mercy Medical Angels for a few years. She has a number of rare diseases, some of which affect her heart. Because she can’t find treatment near her home in the Outer Banks, she has to fly to Cleveland Clinic. Luckily, the volunteer pilots are always there to help her.

“They go above and beyond,” said Tabitha, “and I’m so grateful. They did great.”

New Challenges…

Recently, Tabitha had to fly back to Cleveland Clinic because one of the artificial heart valves calcified. She needs to have it replaced. This will require surgery on her heart.

A scan also found lesions in her neck, which could be cancerous. Tabitha has to make another flight to Cleveland Clinic to find out the next steps.

On top of all this, a connective tissue disorder is causing her to live in pain. “But the heart was the worst pain.” said Tabitha.

…and New Beginnings

But it’s not all darkness in Tabitha’s life. Sunbeams of hope are peeking through the clouds of illness, sending light to her heart. She recently welcomed more grandkids to the family. As her family grows, she tries to keep in touch with as many as she can.

Tabitha said, “Ever since surgery, I try to make a memory.” For example, her daughter used to be terrified of flying. Tabitha planned a birthday surprise – an airplane ride! The two of them had a lot of fun, and it was a birthday to remember.

One of Tabitha’s grandchildren is starting high school. He helped her out over the summer, and introduced her to his friends. “All of his friends call me grandma,” said Tabitha. In return, she’s teaching him the basics of driving.

Straight From The Heart

If someone asked Tabitha about donating to Mercy Medical Angels, she has an answer ready. “Even if you never meet them, you’ve probably saved someone’s life. You’ve extended a family’s time and memories. You may need the help someday.”

Tabitha adds, “You can see who you helped on Twitter and other social media. So you know where the donation’s going. If you’re thinking of giving, give to Mercy Medical Angels.”

Despite all her challenges, Tabitha remains optimistic. She says, “Everything’s a blessing.” Thanks to the people who support Mercy Medical Angels, patients like Tabitha can follow their hearts to healing.

purple heart veteran and service dog

Battle Scarred, Purple Heart

Paul is a veteran of the U.S. Army who served in Afghanistan. One day, he was on patrol with his fellow soldiers in a vehicle. That was when disaster struck: their vehicle ran over a roadside bomb. The impact of the blast threw him and the other soldiers onto the road. Some of them were killed instantly. “I lost some of my closest friends that day,” said Paul. After this event, Paul put on a tough façade so he could keep fighting. He was awarded a Purple Heart.

Even Heroes Need Help

But when Paul got home, he started having problems with his memory. Also, he couldn’t go out in crowds and started having nightmares and flashbacks. “I knew I needed help,” said Paul.

He went to the nearest VA hospital. A doctor at the VA diagnosed him with a Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress. The doctor also suggested a service dog to help Paul. Unfortunately, the best service dog facility was in Texas, hundreds of miles away from his home in Virginia. “I was going down a dark road,” said Paul.

“My New Best Friend”

Luckily, Mercy Medical Angels’ veterans program was able to help him. The non-profit provided free airline tickets so Paul could travel to Texas. Once in Texas, he received his service dog, Chase. Chase is an intelligent German Shepherd. He can sense when Paul is having a nightmare or flashback, and helps him navigate stressful situations. His vest is purple and gold, to represent the Purple Heart that Paul was awarded. Paul said that Chase is “my new best friend.”

When asked what he would say to potential donors, Paul gets choked up. “I don’t know how to thank Mercy Medical Angels enough. They are heaven-sent, helping us Veterans when we need it the most. They helped save my life.”

pancreatic cancer patient

Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis

Seven years ago, Johnnie was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. Because of the disease, he had to quit his job and apply for disability benefits. After two years, he had to apply for Medicare as well. Johnnie couldn’t find adequate treatment in his home state of Alabama. Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Illinois offered him flight assistance so he could receive radiation and chemo.

Red Tape

“This is where things got all messed up,” said Johnnie. A representative from Medicare told him that the cancer center couldn’t help with transportation anymore. “And just like that, my transportation to treatment ended.”

Mercy Medical Angels to the Rescue

Luckily for Johnnie, he found out about Mercy Medical Angels. Mercy Medical Angels provided flight assistance for Johnnie, so he could go to the treatments he needed. “In my mind,” said Johnnie, “they are nothing short of a godsend!”

As of 2015, Johnnie is in remission. “My cancer mysteriously vanished,” he said, “much to the amazement of my medical team.” However, the team at Cancer Treatment Centers of America wanted to be on the safe side. They required Johnnie to go back once a year for scans and blood tests. This was to make sure the cancer would not return; if it did, they could stop it early. Mercy Medical Angels has continued to fly him to checkups for the past four years. “Every time I have contacted them, they have been very professional and caring.”

“You Have Been My Angels”

Johnnie dyes his beard purple, the color for pancreatic cancer. He says, “It’s a great conversation starter so I can share with folks my journey.” It’s a journey that Mercy Medical Angels made possible.

“If it weren’t for the assistance from Mercy Medical Angels, I am not sure what I would have done. From the bottom of my heart, I thank each and every one of you. You have been my angels!”

multiple myeloma patient

Battling Multiple Myeloma

Thomas lives in Montana. The state is known for open spaces and awe-inspiring landscapes. But he can’t enjoy the natural beauty of his state. He has multiple myeloma.

Five years ago, Thomas was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. The cancer was in remission for a few years. But it struck back in 2016.

“My doctors are running out of treatment options in my home town,” said Thomas. His best option for treating the multiple myeloma was in Seattle. But there was one problem – a major problem. Seattle is more than 500 miles away from his home in Montana, and Thomas couldn’t afford the travel.

Thomas needed help and he needed it urgently. His life depended on getting to the treatment. It seemed like his time would run out.

Aid from Mercy Medical Angels and Hogan Foundation

Mercy Medical Angels and Hogan Foundation flew to the rescue. Mercy Medical Angels arranged flights for Thomas on Alaskan Airlines. Hogan Foundation helped with paying for the round-trip tickets.

“Our trip was so much easier,” said Thomas. Thanks to Mercy Medical Angels and Hogan Foundation, Thomas managed to get the treatment he needed.

On the return trip, Thomas missed his flight. He said that “the staff were friendly and willing to help.” He got back home safely.

Fight the Good Fight

Now, Thomas is back home. His health is beginning to improve. He’ll have to travel to and from Seattle for ongoing treatment. Mercy Medical Angels and Hogan Foundation will continue to help him with the long-distance travel.

When someone is diagnosed with multiple myeloma, it can seem like an unfair fight. Mercy Medical Angels and Hogan Foundation are in their corner, providing support through charitable transportation. With help from Mercy Medical Angels and Hogan Foundation, patients like Thomas can fight the good fight – and multiple myeloma meets its match.


Help Needed

Virginia lives in Oklahoma. She has a musculoskeletal condition called dropped head syndrome. The condition is very rare. Because of this, it’s hard for Virginia to find treatment. “We went to several doctors in the Tulsa and Fort Smith areas to try and get help,” said Virginia’s daughter, Tina. “None of the doctors have been able to help her.”

A specialist at Baylor University could help Virginia. Unfortunately, her journey to healing was full of roadblocks. “My mom is on a fixed income,” said Tina. “She can’t afford the commercial airline tickets to get her and myself to the doctor in Houston.” Also, dropped head syndrome severely limits Virginia’s mobility. As a result, she would need accommodations at the airport.

Flight to Healing

Luckily, Mercy Medical Angels and Hogan Foundation helped Virginia fly past the obstacles. Mercy Medical Angels arranged a flight for Virginia and Tina. Hogan Foundation covered the cost of the tickets.

They also made accommodations for Virginia’s limited mobility. “My mom was taken to and from gates in a wheelchair by courteous people,” said Tina.

“It was a very good experience for us.”

Baylor University

Once at Baylor University, the specialists ordered tests for Virginia. They managed to determine the exact nature of her condition. When the tests were complete, they made a treatment plan. Virginia finally got the help she needed.

Virginia will have to fly to and from Baylor University again. As treatment continues,Mercy Medical Angels and Hogan Foundation will continue to help her.

“So Blessed With Help”

Tina says that the flight was “great.” She adds that it would have been impossible to get treatment for Virginia without the assistance from Mercy Medical Angels and Hogan Foundation.

“We were so blessed with Mercy Medical Angels’ and Hogan Foundation’s help,” said Tina. “Taking care of my mom is a high priority. Mercy Medical Angels and Hogan Foundation helped me to provide what she needed. Thank you so much!”

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.