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!

Troubles with Tibial Hemimelia

Faith lives in the Caribbean. Year-round warmth, white coral beaches, and crystal-blue waters beckon to countless tourists. But even in the bright tropical sun, there’s a dark side to life. The remote location of the islands makes it hard to access specialized medical care. This includes treatments for birth defects, such as tibial hemimelia.

When Faith was a baby, doctors found out she had tibial hemimelia. Tibial hemimelia is when the tibia (shin bone) is either too short or entirely absent. It often affects other bones in the leg, ankle, and foot. In this case, Faith is missing a main bone in her right foot. Faith’s mother, Stacey, was worried: “She cannot walk without major reconstructive surgery.”

“She cannot access care at home,” said Stacey, “so we had to travel to the US.” The good news was that a Shriners Hospital in Los Angeles had an orthopedic surgeon on their team who specializes in tibial hemimelia.

“We were able to get an appointment for Faith,” said Stacey, “and so began our journey.”

Clearing the Hurdles

However, two hurdles came up. The hospital was almost 4,000 miles away from Faith’s home. Her family wasn’t able to afford the airfare.

Mercy Medical Angels helped Faith clear those hurdles. A partnership with American Airlines made it possible for Faith to fly to Los Angeles. Faith visited an orthopedic surgeon for a medical consultation regarding treatment for tibial hemimelia. “Thanks to Mercy Medical Angels,” said Stacey, “this trip was possible.”

International Hope

Faith will have to continue flying to the US for surgery and checkups. Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines will be with her all the way.

When asked about how Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines helped Faith, Stacey answers with joy. “Without this assistance from Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines, this consultation at Shriners would not be possible for Faith. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!”

Often, children like Faith cannot access medical care in their home countries. Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines are ready to help. No matter where they live, children can travel around the world for healing.

“Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!” ~Stacey, Faith’s mother

Problems with “Autism Awareness”

This April, you’re probably going to witness what appears to be a surge of support for autism. Puzzle pieces will pop up like weeds in the garden. Requests to “light it up blue” will glare in your face like an interrogation lamp. Fundraisers may very well flood your local area like a spring rainstorm. It’s all for a seemingly good cause: “autism awareness.”

However, what seems like an outpouring of aid is more like a destructive tsunami. These calls for “autism awareness” are not helpful, but harmful. Autistic people don’t need awareness. Instead, they need acceptance.

Autism Speaks? More Like Autism Silenced.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to find misinformation this April. You probably have questions about autism, so you decide to look up Autism Speaks. Surely they’ll have some decent information – right?

Wrong.

Autism Speaks says they support autistic people. They came up with this whole “autism awareness” thing in the first place. However, they’re doing the opposite. Their very name is an oxymoron: no autistic individuals serve on their governing board.

“But what about John Elder Robinson?” you ask. “He’s autistic, and he was on their board!” Key word was. In a cunning PR move, Autism Speaks pulled him on. However, Robinson soon resigned. He realized that Autism Speaks wasn’t helping his demographic. That puts Autism Speaks back to square one when it came to listening to autistic voices.

Awareness of ABA

On top of the ironic name, Autism Speaks is dedicated to “curing” autism. To do this, they promote treatments such as Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA.

ABA is like obedience school for misbehaving dogs – except it’s used on autistic people. It aims to hide the symptoms of autism, such as stimulating behaviors (“stims”), dislike of physical contact, and sensory issues. This is accomplished with negative reinforcement. A common warning phrase is “quiet hands.” If this is not heeded, cue punishment. These punishments include withholding toys, games, books, and in some cases, even food. Also, physical restraint is often used.

Does it hide the symptoms of autism? In most cases, yes. However, long-lasting trauma often comes with it. ABA also is linked to a rise in various forms of abuse. Instead of learning about personal boundaries, people who have gone through ABA are forced to endure the opposite. When their boundaries are violated in a relationship, they worry that protecting themselves and saying no will result in punishment.

Prepare for Scares

On top of the harm caused by ABA, Autism Speaks spends a lot of money on marketing and advertising. Their campaigns portray autism as a scary disease. In these campaigns, autism rips apart families and steals children. Some of their stories go so far to support eugenics – put bluntly, killing autistic people. According to these tragic narratives, it’s better to be dead than to live with autism.

Again, this is a prime example of not heeding autistic voices. Many autistic people do not wish to be cured. Autism is something they’re born with, like a certain eye color. It is not a disease they develop, like cancer. Think of it this way: if you wouldn’t kill a cancer patient, why would you kill an autistic person?

So What Can You Do?

For starters, don’t go to Autism Speaks. More than 90{f77eda0a441a5392985456a36d9467949e304252615cb77080f0e5eccc27b851} of their funds go to administrative expenses, catering, and events. Instead, check out organizations like the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) – they’re run by autistic people, for autistic people. Rather than making the move to “light it up blue,” use “Red Instead.” Don’t display the puzzle piece – this is the logo for Autism Speaks.

What if you meet an autistic person? The chance of this happening is more likely than you think. Don’t be alarmed if they start exhibiting stimulating behaviors (“stimming”). Be respectful of personal boundaries. If they’re up for socializing, ask them about their special interests or what they like to do. If they’re not up for socializing, don’t force a conversation. Talking down to them or using cure rhetoric is only going to hurt them, so don’t do that. Finally, show acceptance for who they are, autism and all. Acceptance beats awareness every time.

Autism Acceptance

This April, ignore the flood of “autism awareness.” Keep this information in mind. Share it with someone who wants to learn more about autism. To conclude, don’t be puzzled – support autism acceptance!

Blindsided by Rare Conditions

Victoria lives in Gloucester, Virginia. She was very athletic; her favorite sports were soccer and gymnastics. However, a few years ago, her active life took an unexpected tumble.

She was diagnosed with three rare conditions.

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) affects her blood flow when she stands up from lying down. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome harms her connective tissues. Myasthenia Gravis attacks her involuntary muscles.

The three rare conditions disrupted Victoria’s active life. She had to stop playing soccer, and could no longer participate in gymnastics. “I went from being active and playing sports to not being able to walk for long distances,” said Victoria.

Hope Lost…

“There’s nobody in Virginia who can treat my rare conditions,” said Victoria. Specialists at Mayo Clinic would give Victoria the best treatment possible. There was only one problem: Mayo Clinic is more than 1,500 miles away from home. Her family couldn’t afford the cost of long-distance transportation.

It seemed all hope was lost.

…And Found

That was when Mercy Medical Angels and Southwest Airlines flew to the rescue. They provided free airline tickets, which enabled Victoria and her family to travel.

“My family cried when they heard the news,” said Victoria.

Victoria can travel to Mayo Clinic and receive the care she needs. Even though she suffers from three rare conditions, the treatment at Mayo Clinic is improving her quality of life.

Finding Her Wings

In one word, Victoria describes her experience as “phenomenal.” She also made a good point, saying that “people don’t know how important charity is.” Her hope is that people realize the importance of giving back, so that she and other patients can continue to access medical care.

“I’m more than grateful,” says Victoria. When rare conditions push young people like Victoria down, Mercy Medical Angels and Southwest Airlines help them find their wings.

“ ‘Twas the night before Christmas,” the old lines tell of glory

But I, a volunteer pilot, will tell a new story.

The airport was shining with colorful lights

In hopes that night pilots would have safer flights.

The planes tucked in hangars, the pilots in bed

While visions of clear flying danced in their heads.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t drift off to slumber

Too much hangar coffee had done a real number.

Then out on the runway, there arose such a clatter

I leapt out of bed to see what was the matter.

Sprinting outside, I hoped it was a joke

Praying that nothing had gone up in smoke.

All of a sudden, something came down

Like iced-over wings, plummeting to the ground.

That’s when I realized I had to act quick

Because that falling object was beloved St. Nick!

“Santa,” I shouted, “get control of your sleigh!”

Santa was panicking, and cried out “Mayday!”

“Whoa, Dasher! Whoa, Dancer! Whoa, Prancer and Vixen!

Whoa, Comet! Whoa, Cupid! Whoa, Donner and Blitzen!”

“Try to make a safe landing, we’re in a stall!

Slow down, I beg you! Slow down all!”

Grabbing two batons, I sprang into action

This was an emergency, no time for distraction.

I got Santa to land in that moment of distress

The sleigh wasn’t shining, it looked like a mess.

That’s when I wondered, “What happened on this task?”

Santa sighed in reply, “It’s funny you asked.”

Santa explained, “Christmas magic wears thin

People don’t believe, and they let hatred win.”

Santa’s words brought tears to my eyes,

“Well, I believe. That’s one reason I fly.”

That’s when a glimmer came over the sleigh

Then, dimming like stardust, it just fell away.

I got an idea, and it gave Santa cheer:

“Kindness restores magic, you can still go this year!”

“Well then, good pilot,” said Santa, “please tell me why:

What makes volunteer pilots want to fly?”

I thought for a moment, got my words on track

And hoped what I said would bring magic back.

“Children with illnesses, needing the sun

We fly them to summer camp, where they can have fun.”

Veterans who suffer from deep inner strife

We help them fly over the clouds in life.”

“Cancer patients losing hope, for aid they are crying

We fly them to treatment and stop them from dying.”

A miracle happened: the more stories I told

The more the sleigh sparkled and glittered in gold!

Santa went from sad to smiling in a minute

We fixed the sleigh together, and then he jumped in it.

“Thank you, good pilot, now I’ll fly away!

You’ve done so much this year, and saved the holiday.”

“You’re welcome, Santa! And stay safe up there!”

Sleigh bells jingled, and Santa soared up in the air.

But I heard the kind words, as he went into flight:

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Winter Battleground

Winter is a quiet season. Snow blankets the ground with sparkling pure white. Silver icicles glisten on branches. Frost glitters on rooftops. The oblique rays of the sun reflect on the ice. The air is hushed, punctuated only by small birds and the wind in the trees.

But when someone is suffering from cancer, the peace of winter contorts into a battleground. It’s hard to get a footing on slippery terrain. Resources run out. Victory seems far away – or sometimes even impossible.

Mary was trapped on one such battleground.

Stuck in the Snows

Not too long ago, Mary contracted “a debilitating illness, from which I never fully recovered.” This illness caused her resources to plummet. Her only source of income is a small amount from Social Security.

On top of the first illness, Mary contracted colon cancer. It rapidly got worse, sliding to Stage 4 within a short period of time. Her last hope was treatment at Cleveland Clinic, but she couldn’t afford the travel. The clinic was more than 700 miles away from her home in Alabama. It was like she was stranded on a snowy road, with no way out.

No Delay

Luckily, Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines lifted Mary from her predicament. Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines found round-trip flights for her. She had to go back and forth through most of 2018 for treatment. She started off with twelve rounds of chemo. Then, a new development occurred in her treatment.

“It turned out that there was a new immunotherapy drug,” said Mary. “My genetics make me the textbook candidate for it.” This new immunotherapy drug is beating back the colon cancer. Most of all, it’s saving Mary’s life. She says, “The flight assistance been essential for my medical care.”

Sweet Victory

Mary is grateful to Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines for playing a critical role in saving her life. “Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines have provided kindness, support, and care that has made a huge difference in my life.”

Battling cancer is not an easy fight. It can make the quiet season of winter into a time of despair. But with help from Mercy Medical Angels and American Airlines, patients like Mary have a chance at winning in winter.

mary at  winter party

An Impressive Résumé

Keith has helped many nonprofits for more than 30 years. In that time, he’s made his mark in development and fundraising. His positive attitude is contagious, and he has the skills to help a nonprofit succeed.

But what’s most interesting on Keith’s résumé is his involvement with Mercy Medical Angels as Development Director. Before accepting a job as Development Director, he was one of the patients who needed transportation.

Cost of Cancer

In 2017, Keith was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He had been working in development at an organization that helped low-income children. However, he had to enter long-term cancer treatment and as a result he lost his job. “My insurance didn’t cover all the costs associated with treatment,” said Keith.

Keith’s best chance at healing was a stem cell transplant. Fortunately, his brother was a match. Then he ran into another problem: his brother lives in California. Round-trip airfare would have added to the financial drain. On top of this, Keith had to go to Duke University for the transplant, which was far away from his home in Hampton Roads. Aside from running out of resources, Keith was running out of time.

New Development

As Keith found out, this story wasn’t over. Mercy Medical Angels gave Keith’s brother a round-trip flight for the transplant. Keith received gas cards so he could go to Duke. His wife drove him back and forth to treatment – “she’s an outstanding caregiver,” said Keith.

Since stress slows the healing process, Mercy Medical Angels accelerated Keith’s journey to healing. “They helped me focus on treatment and recovery,” said Keith, “instead of the financial burden.” To describe his experience with Mercy Medical Angels in one word, Keith chooses “relief.”

“If it weren’t for Mercy Medical Angels, I wouldn’t be here.”

The Helped Becomes The Helper

Now, Keith works as the Development Director for Mercy Medical Angels. He encourages people to donate to Mercy Medical Angels: “Their donations are providing hope and saving lives,” said Keith. He’s ready to take on development once again, helping patients who are traveling the road he was on. “I hope I’ll be able to help Mercy Medical Angels, and the many great people that it serves.”

In the classic wisdom of nonprofits, the people who receive help often end up giving back. Many of the patients that Mercy Medical Angels have helped are giving back in the usual ways. They donate money, write thank you letters, or send holiday cards. Keith’s way of giving back is truly unique… it’s not every day a patient becomes a staff member!

keith development director mercy medical angels
Say hello to Keith! He’s the new development director at Mercy Medical Angels.

Life with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Diana was hyper-flexible as a child. As with many “double jointed” children, she showed off her abilities. “In my youth, I often entertained friends with all my ‘tricks.’ I grew up thinking most people could do these things with their joints.”

But as the years went on, Diana began to suffer from chronic pain. Even when she stopped doing “tricks,” the pain persisted. At 40 years old, she found out why: she had a rare connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. It enabled her to manipulate her joints in ways that most people can’t, but this caused irreversible damage along with chronic pain. Diana describes the condition as “being held together with paste instead of superglue.”

Grasping for Help

After receiving the diagnosis, Diana needed to find out more and receive treatment. Unfortunately, some of her doctors caused more hurt than healing. They didn’t know much about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and a lack of understanding often led them to questionable decisions. In some cases, the doctors would “push patients to do the very ‘tricks’ that were so damaging and painful.”

On top of the lack of knowledge, surgery can be dangerous for Diana. Anesthesia doesn’t always work as intended. There’s a high risk of her bleeding out. Stitches don’t always hold.

Diana’s best option for treatment was at National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Maryland. Normally, she would drive to and from the appointments. But as time went on, it was almost too painful to move. And having someone else drive wasn’t an option either: “The ride itself was painful and it took up to three or four days to recover.”

She needed to find another way to travel.

Flight of Opportunity

Mercy Medical Angels’ volunteer pilot program gave Diana the means to travel back and forth to NIH. “Without it,” she says, “there’s no doubt that I’d be in a wheelchair permanently.”

Diana considers herself “lucky” to have found doctors who know what they’re doing. “To see my doctors and surgeons in Maryland has saved my life and retained the quality of life I do have.” In addition to her treatment, Diana also held a conference about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome for medical staff, along with workshops for patients and families.

“Angel Smiles and Genuine Compassion”

Diana’s gratitude overflows when she tells about the volunteer pilots who have flown her to NIH. “Down to every single one I have flown with, they are there with a smile, letting you know upfront that they are there for you.” Diana also thanks MJ, who coordinates the volunteer pilot flights: “She’s one of the real life angels of Mercy Medical Angels.”

“It’s those angel smiles and genuine compassion that stay with me,” says Diana. With help from Mercy Medical Angels, Diana can rest assured that everything will stay connected.