Volunteer Pilots Provide Free Travel, Gifts to Patients Through Angel Flight West

Four volunteer pilots with Angel Flight West presented gifts to the Hudacek-Monroe family and their daughter, Audrey during the “Flights of Joy” holiday tradition at Marana Airport on Dec. 19.

Angel Flight West provides free flights year-round for people who need to travel long distances to access medical care. And during the holidays, they deliver something extra. Diagnosed with a rare liver disorder that requires a liver transplant, Audrey has traveled more than most kids will in their entire childhood.

Earlier this year, the family found out Audrey needed a lifesaving procedure and the best place for her wasn’t in her hometown of Tucson. Doctors recommended the Children’s Hospital of Colorado in Aurora, 900 miles away.

Audrey’s father was a perfect match and donated his liver to save his daughter’s life in July. After going back and forth twice to Colorado in the car, Audrey and her family finally climbed on board Angel Flight West, in which pilots fly people to medical appointments at no cost to the passenger.

If someone has a rare condition, requires specialized medical treatment or surgery, has a difficult to diagnose condition, or has a child with a rare or serious illness, they may need to travel far to get treatment. Every day, Angel Flight West is closing those barriers and making it easier for families in need by cutting transportation costs out of the picture.

While the cost of the treatment is often covered by health insurance, the cost of travel rarely is. The cost of travel is a barrier for many people in getting the healthcare they need for themselves or their children.

Scott Lehman, a volunteer pilot with Angel Flight, is one of nearly 3,000 volunteers. That includes both pilots and earth angels, the people who provide ground transportation once the precious cargo lands.

Lehman said, “I’m so grateful to be able to help the Hudaceks through the Angel Flight organization. So many pilots have come together to make this happen and to help this family over the last year.”

The pilots not only volunteer to fly, they also provide the plane too. In 39 years of service, Angel Flight West has taken off on 94,000 missions, serving 20,000 passengers.

With all the complications, Audrey and her parents have had to return to Colorado a few more times than expected. Audrey’s mother, a teacher, had to take a leave of absence without pay this entire school year. Audrey’s dad is also an educator on a limited budget. The generosity of Angel Flight West and volunteer pilots like Lehman has made all the difference as they navigate Audrey’s diagnosis as a family.

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