“ ‘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.

Battling Bile Duct Liver Cancer

Marlin was diagnosed with bile duct liver cancer. The doctors in his local area were unable to treat it. As he searched for treatment options, Marlin found out good news and bad news. The good news: specialists at MD Anderson could help him. The bad news: MD Anderson was more than 700 miles away from home. Also, the long distance presented a second problem: “Travel, especially by air, is expensive.”

His treatment required frequent round trips. “I have to go every two to three months,” Marlin said. Marlin needed help, and he needed it quickly.

“A Tremendous Help”

Fortunately, Marlin wasn’t fighting solo. Mercy Medical Angels arranged flights for Marlin, through Delta. However, there was an added obstacle: bile duct liver cancer had sapped Marlin’s energy. He needed a wheelchair to get around the airport. Marlin said, “Delta was very helpful with wheelchair assistance.”

“Mercy Medical Angels was a tremendous help in making my flight to MD Anderson Cancer Center possible,” said Marlin.

Frequent Flyer

Marlin was able to fly to MD Anderson twice. His battle isn’t over yet, but he’s on the way to healing. Mercy Medical Angels will continue to help him fight through flight.
“Mercy Medical Angels eased the financial burden of the trip,” said Marlin. Without the stress of uncertainty, the travel assistance enables him to focus on treatment and healing.

I am very thankful for their help as I battle bile duct liver cancer.”

Marlin’s Message

When asked how he would describe Mercy Medical Angels in one word, Marlin answers with sincerity and gratitude. “My one-word description would be ‘great’,” said Marlin. Aside from this answer, Marlin adds a message to potential donors.

“For those who can give financial support to Mercy Medical Angels,” he said, “I would recommend this organization as a great place to help others in their time of need.”

Marlin has a long road ahead of him. But with the help of Mercy Medical Angels and Delta, he doesn’t have to walk it alone.

bile duct liver cancer patient at md anderson
When it comes to cancer treatment, Marlin doesn’t have to walk alone.

Cardiac Troubles

In 2017, Brenda went to the doctor for a series of tests. The results were grim: she had blood clots in her lungs. She had to take blood thinners to dissolve the clotting. She was put on oxygen so she could breathe more easily. More tests revealed more problems: Brenda had a hole in her heart. These two conditions may have proven fatal – unless she could get specialized surgery to fix her cardiac troubles.

Racing Against The Clock

The best cardiac surgeon to help Brenda was located in San Diego. However, Brenda lives in Illinois. She’d have to fly more than 1,500 miles away from home to receive the surgery. Long-distance airfare would have drained her resources. Worse, time was running out. Brenda’s life depended on the flight.

Gracious Assistance

Mercy Medical Angels was able to help Brenda fly to San Diego for the surgery. Her mother accompanied her. Since it was their first time flying, they didn’t know what to expense. “The airline was very helpful,” said Brenda. The airline made sure to provide wheelchairs. Aside from the usual help, Brenda and her mother received assistance with their carry-on luggage.

One of the highlights of flying is a bird’s-eye view of the landscape. Brenda and her mother were experiencing flight for the first time ever, and didn’t know what they were looking at. Luckily, the airline was happy to help. “The pilots were really helpful when it came to sights that you could see below.”

Overall, Brenda said her flight was “great.”

Saved in San Diego

Once in San Diego, Brenda rushed to the hospital. The surgeon had to fix the hole in her heart. On top of that, the blood clots in her lungs had gotten worse. Nineteen clots had to be removed. It was a difficult operation, but Brenda made it through.
“It was a life-saving procedure,” said Brenda. The surgery went beyond saving her life. It also improved her life overall.

Not the End

Brenda says she couldn’t access the surgery without the flight assistance from Mercy Medical Angels. She thanks Mercy Medical Angels for their role in saving her life. “Without your help,” she said, “I don’t know how long I’d be here.”

Now, Brenda is on her way to healing. She’s experiencing a better quality of life. She can breathe easy knowing her finances are stable. Most importantly, this is not the end for Brenda. It’s a new beginning.

When cardiac patients like Brenda encounter deadly conditions, Mercy Medical Angels gives them the freedom to live.

Unhappy Holidays

The holidays are a season of gratitude and giving. Some may celebrate in good health. However, there are many individuals who aren’t as lucky during this happy time – such as breast cancer patients.

Imagine if this holiday season you were diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. On top of that, your oncologist tells you that you only have a few months left to live. A warm, loving season immediately turns cold and cruel. The winter’s beauty becomes a whiteout blizzard of despair. And otherwise happy holidays twist into a time that is rather unhappy.

This scenario was the reality for Serenity.

Fighting for Her Life

Serenity lives in California with her son. At the time of her breast cancer diagnosis, her son was only two years old. The oncologist told her she had three months left to live. Serenity didn’t accept this grim statement for a final answer.

“I refused, in a haze, to take that prognosis for an answer,” said Serenity. “I was determined to fight but I didn’t know where to turn next.”

One of Serenity’s friends decided to research different cancer centers. MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston offered the best chance at treating her breast cancer. There was even a glimmer of hope that they could save her life. There was only one problem. The cancer center is almost 1,500 miles away from her home. Her income is limited, and she has to take care of her son as well as herself. Traveling to the treatment would be almost impossible. “I just don’t have the funds,” said Serenity.

Fight through Flight

Mercy Medical Angels worked together with Southwest Airlines. Southwest Airlines had a flight available. From there, Mercy Medical Angels secured round-trip tickets. Serenity was able to fly to MD Anderson for cancer treatment.

“In the three months that I was given to live, MD Anderson did not give up on me,” said Serenity. The doctors that treated her “sped into high gear.” In those three months, Serenity had the best care possible.

“Mercy Medical Angels helped keep me alive by flying me to Houston for my treatments and scans,” said Serenity. The flights from Mercy Medical Angels and Southwest helped Serenity to fight breast cancer. Most importantly, they managed to save her life.

The Best Gift of All

Serenity isn’t giving up her battle. She has “top of the line doctors” continuing to help her. Mercy Medical Angels and Southwest will keep flying her until the cancer goes away.

In a season where people focus on gifts, cancer patients like Serenity have a reason to celebrate. She thanks Mercy Medical Angels and the donors for their role in saving her life. And life is the best gift of all.

Choosing to Give

It’s almost the end of the year. You’re probably getting mail from lots of charities, asking you to give. And it gets very overwhelming, very quickly. What’s a generous individual to do? Well, there’s an easy answer: donate to Mercy Medical Angels.

Now, you’re probably asking a question. “Why should I donate to Mercy Medical Angels instead of another charity?” Here are the top five reasons to give to Mercy Medical Angels…

Five Reasons

  1. You can trust Mercy Medical Angels to do the right thing. The support and trust of donors like you is critical. It has enabled patients to access medical care for more than 45 years. You can find financial information and trip reports on our website. Also, your information is secure with us. Our ethical practices have paid off – we’ve earned Charity Navigator’s four-star rating for the past 11 years.
  2. Your gift goes to good use. We’re efficient and responsible with funds. 93{f77eda0a441a5392985456a36d9467949e304252615cb77080f0e5eccc27b851} of all donations go directly to helping patients in need. You can rest assured that your gift to Mercy Medical Angels will change – and perhaps even save – a life.
  3. You can help anyone. Maybe you’re fighting alongside a loved one in the battle against cancer. Maybe you’re passionate about saving a child with a rare disease. Or maybe you’re hoping to heal a veteran’s unseen scars. Your donation will help all of these people, and more.
  4. You can make meaningful connections. Visit the website at https://mercymedical.org/. Also, follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mercymedicalangels/. You can read the stories of the people we’ve helped, enjoy uplifting content, and find other people who share your interest in making a difference.
  5. You’re giving the gift of life. Some gifts don’t come from a box, but from the heart. Hearing a child laugh and talk about their good times at Victory Junction. Sharing in the gratitude of a family when they realize healing is in reach. Witnessing a veteran receive their new best friend. Your support of Mercy Medical Angels is changing and saving lives every day. And to the people you help, life is the best gift of all.
hands and heart give
When you give to Mercy Medical Angels, you will make a difference!

Rare Cancer and Shadows

Holiday lights can come in many shapes: candles, stars, or bulbs. Displays can be simple or downright impressive, clear or colorful. No matter how the lights look, they all bring to mind the meaning of the holidays. Joy to the world, peace on earth, and kindness to all – they light up the night and warm the cold. But when someone has a rare cancer, this bright time can seem unnaturally dark. The disease ravages their body and weakens their spirits.

For a cancer patient like Nancy, the lights may as well have burned out.

Further Difficulties

Nancy has a rare cancer called paraganglioma. Very few physicians know how to treat it. Worse, it doesn’t respond to chemo. “The local oncologists didn’t know this until I had already gone through chemo,” said Nancy. During that time, a large tumor developed behind her heart. After the failed chemo, they tried surgery – which had to stop before it damaged her heart. Even after extensive surgery, the cancer continued to attack.

Nancy’s best option to treat this rare cancer was beam radiation. However, it’s not available in her local area. To receive this treatment, she would have to travel all the way to MD Anderson in Houston, TX. The renowned cancer center is hundreds of miles away from Nancy’s home.

Traveling would be a challenge in itself. “My husband was my caretaker and travel companion. He passed away in June,” said Nancy. Nobody could help her.

“I didn’t know how I would get there.”

Up and Out

That’s when Mercy Medical Angels and the American Cancer Society (ACS) came to the rescue. A long, hard journey was much easier. “They made the problems tolerable,” said Nancy, “and I had a pleasant experience.”

Nancy said that Medical Angels and ACS “relieved me of a lot of anxiety about traveling to Houston.” Although she still has to go for yearly checkups, she feels confident as MD Anderson helps her fight. “They’re on the cutting edge of cancer treatments,” said Nancy.

With the beam radiation, the rare cancer is in remission.

Lights Keep Shining

Mercy Medical Angels and ACS are powerful allies in the battle against cancer. Nancy’s fight isn’t done yet, but she knows that the two organizations will continue to help her – and people like her. “If you don’t have transportation, they help you get there,” said Nancy.

Nancy said that Mercy Medical Angels and ACS “are a godsend.” Thanks to the flights to treatment, her life is brightening up – just in time for the holidays. Even when cancer casts a shadow on life, cancer patients like Nancy can enjoy the lights of hope.

Family Matters

When the holidays come around, family naturally follows. Children stock up on candy canes and cookies. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles tell stories. Parents try to keep things in order and have fun at the same time. People give gifts, traditions play out, all have fun.

But what happens if a relative is sick? Hospital visits, medical bills, and other problems can flip the fun family time upside-down. If the unthinkable happens, celebrations can turn to mourning.

So it was for John and his family.

Hurting Heart

John is married and has four young children. He worked hard to support his family, and tries his best to be a good husband and father.

In 2011, John was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM is a rare heart condition. “Back then,” said John, “my cardiologist didn’t explain to me how serious the condition was.” The problem was, HCM is very serious.

Unaware of this, John continued his career as a police officer. Five years passed as John continued living his life. But the physical aspects of his job made the symptoms of HCM clear. John began to experience extreme shortness of breath. He suffered from chest pain and irregular heart beat. His physician found his bloodwork was out of balance. “I was referred to a new cardiologist,” said John, “and he stated my condition was beginning to worsen.”

Turning Point

As time went on, John’s condition only got worse. He was put on medication, which had adverse side effects. Between the original problem and the side effects of medication, he had to stop working. His wife’s job was now the only source of income. This put a burden on John and his family. In his words, they “faced extreme financial difficulty.”

John began to research his condition and possible treatments. He found one, a surgery called a septal myectomy. This open-heart surgery would alleviate the symptoms of HCM. “It would possibly return me to my life that I was able to have before,” said John. The only problem: the best surgical center was too far away, and travel was too expensive.

Luckily, Mercy Medical Angels and the Hogan Foundation helped. They helped coordinate flights so John could travel to receive the surgery. “Without Mercy Medical Angels and the Hogan Foundation,” said John, “receiving this procedure would have been nearly impossible.”

Straight from the Heart

John is now on his way to recovery. He says that Mercy Medical Angels and the Hogan Foundation saved his life.

“My family is so grateful for what Mercy Medical Angels and the Hogan Foundation have done for us. Once my health improves, we can give back what we can.”

This holiday will probably be different for John and his family. But with his health coming back and his family by his side, John has a reason to celebrate.

John with family photo tee
The shirt says it all: John’s heart belongs to his family.