On November 10, Nellie and crew departed Indianapolis International Airport for Las Vegas. On November 11, Nellie successfully returned to Indianapolis with Frank W., to experience one of the most memorable family reunifications Grace on Wngs has been able to be a part of. This story had press coverage by all three local Indianapolis news channels. Nellie taxied to the Million Air headquarters located just off of the runway to a group of approximately 30 family members and friends anxiously waiting to see Frank. Looking around as we brought Frank inside the building I don’t know that there were any dry eyes, myself included. Our trip has a great story to it and I am so blessed to be able to share it with you below.
Frank, a 67 year old retired Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer, moved to Las Vegas with his wife a number of years ago to live out their years together. Unfortunately, over the last few months Frank, his wife, and family had a string of unfortunate events. Frank suffered multiple strokes and heart attacks within a short period of time. This took a tremendous toll on Frank’s body. It left him with the inability to fully speak and move his left arm and leg. Frank had been in a pattern of being in and out of the hospital for these problems and had to have a breathing tube put in and be placed on the ventilator for respiratory failure several times. Frank was also unable to coordinate swallowing so he had a feeding tube placed in his stomach to receive nutrition.
During this time of Frank being in and out of the hospital his wife, Carol, was diagnosed with stage 4 terminal cancer. This was devastating to Frank’s family. They decided to bring Carol back to Indianapolis for treatment and care by her family. This left Frank in Las Vegas, 1,836 miles away from his family. With his family and wife in indiana and the current circumstances his family wished to get Frank back home.
If you have been following Grace on Wings for any amount of time you are aware of the costs associated with commercial air medical transport. The donation for the flight on Nellie was approximately $15,000, which would probably come close or exceed $100,000 with commercial air medical transport. The family still had a problem of coming up with the money to contract Grace on Wings. The Fraternal Order of Police and the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety had fundraisers and collected donations and raised enough money to cover the cost of the transport.
Our crew met Saturday morning to fly out to Las Vegas. When Tami had last talked to the nurses at the hospital that Frank was at, the report was encouraging. Frank had the breathing tube removed and had stable vital signs. When I called to touch base the the nurses caring for Frank for an initial report on Saturday morning my heart immediately sank. Frank required to have another breathing tube inserted and was back on the ventilator because his respiratory system was failing to get oxygen in and out of the lungs. The heart and lungs work perfectly in unison. When one system is failing, the other usually is suffering also. This was the case with Frank. He required three different IV medications that affected his heart pumping ability, blood pressure, and heart rate control. Needles to say, this transport had just become much more complicated, but the Lord had allowed a wonderfully skilled team to accomplish our organization’s goal, “Showing Christ’s Love Through Aviation.” After a wonderful devotion from Pastor Gary Walker we loaded up and we were off.
It took 7 hours to get to Vegas. It was a great flight. I caught up on some much needed sleep. At this time I just want to throw out a shout out to Katie, our wonderful respiratory therapist. She is now one of my all-tme heroes. Not only did she play a crucial role in managing Frank’s ventilator settings, she did it all wonderfully while being 35 weeks pregnant!!! Amazing. She has a bladder made of steel. We landed in a chilly 40 degree Vegas and made our way down the famous Vegas Strip to our hotel. This was my first overnight flight mission. What a blessing to be able to spend some time in fellowship with the crew around a table of wonderful Italian food. We returned to the hotel around 9 P.M. (Midnight Indiana time) and i quickly fell asleep. I slept like a rock and awoke the next morning. Our team assembled in the lobby of the hotel at 6 A.M. and was planning on being to the airport by 7 A.M. to meet the ambulance that would take us to the hospital. We quickly learned that Sunday morning in Las Vegas is not a popular time in Vegas. It took us almost an hour to arrange a cab to pick us up.
We arrived at the hospital, hopped into the ambulance, and were on our way to pick up Frank. We arrived to find a much improved patient. Frank only required one IV medication that assisted in keeping his blood pressure up. He was awake, but still had the breathing tube in. In terms of transporting patients, having a breathing tube in was actually a relief. This took out our potential of having to put a tube in emergently in the aircraft. We were able to utilize our new transport ventilator (thanks for all your help in attaining this vital piece of equipment). We transferred Frank to our cot and headed back to Nellie. Shortly after we had Frank in the airplane and were bound for Indianapolis.
Frank did very well throughout the flight. I decided since it was a 6 hour flight back that I would give Frank some sedation and pain medication since we could not turn and reposition him much due to space. It was a great flight back. We were able to see the the beautiful scenery of the West and even flew over snow in the Mid-West. We landed about 7 P.M. and, as my story started, we rolled frank inside and allowed his family to see their beloved father. The most amazing thing is that Carol gathered the strength to come to the airport to meet her husband. After a few minutes of visiting we continued on to the ambulance that would take Frank to the VA Hospital in Indianapolis. As I mentioned before, Frank was a retired IMPD officer. Some IMPD officers met me as we loading Frank into the ambulance and informed me that they were here to give us a police escort directly to the hospital. It was very special to be a part of that.
We arrived at the hospital and transferred Frank to the hospital bed. We prayed with Frank before we left and left him in the care of the wonderful staff at the VA Hospital. We returned to our hangar to put our supplies away and tuck Nellie in for the Night. One of my most favorite parts of any flight is the prayer time that we have together at the end of the flight. It serves to allow us to come together and voice our hearts’ thoughts for all that God has done, is able to do, and is going to do not only for Frank, but for Grace on Wings. The team that came together to accomplish this transport consisted of Pilots Hal Blank and Mark Summers, Respiratory Therapist Katie Montgomery, Paramedic Rick Allgood, and myself as a nurse. This was my first opportunity to serve as lead medical person on a transport. I just want to take a quick, but sincere moment to thank you for your support of Grace on Wings. Your support and prayers are allowing us to add bricks to the brickwork of God’s Kingdom here on Earth.
I stopped by to see Frank yesterday and pray with him. He looked great! he had the breathing tube out and the nurse had just used a lift to take him out of bed and put him into a chair. He was able to mouth the words “thank you” as we were talking. He looked in great spirits. Frank’s predicament and transport reminded me of Isaiah 40:31 which reads: “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (NIV)” What great hope we have in the Lord! Thanks for your time!
–Called to Serve,
RN; Volunteer Flight Nurse, Grace on Wings
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