This is a mission I will never forget. Fred F is a 71 yearl old that has battled with multiple myeloma since 2005. The miracle workers at the specialty center at UAMS in Little Rock have been directing his care and he’s traveled back and forth from his home in Mobile, Alabama for treatment.
He recently had a reoccurrence of his cancer and due to his low immune status, came down with infections. Unfortunately either the cancer or his infection shut down his kidney’s last week and there was no longer anything more that could be done but to keep him comfortable. His wife said his last wish was to go home.
Grace on Wings got the call and we met in the morning to prepare to transport him and the nurse said they had given him a sedative through his IV that morning that should last through flight because he was very restless and confused. I told the nurse that was great to help give him a good flight and she told me that he was very sick and she couldn’t guarantee he’d live through the flight. His wife had left the night before to split up the 10+ hour drive she had to make alone. She said on the phone, “it’s just he and I”, and with tears, “by the way, he’s a pilot.”
Literally as we were boarding the aircraft in Indy I answered my phone and the case manager said, “don’t start those engines yet-the receiving hospital just called and said they are on diversion and cannot supply a room for him-they are denying his admission.” I couldn’t believe it! How could they change their mind that morning? And after his poor wife was already halfway home! He could die before she could make it back to him. I asked if possibly he could go home with hospice and I was told that his wife was in no position emotionally to handle that. I began to pray hard for the Lord’s intervention.
I soon got another call that the wife was pleading with them to keep us on standby while they try to see if their home oncologist could find an answer. We agreed to standby (and keep praying.)
We were called a few hours later and he had been graciously accepted to a hospice in Pensacola-not Mobile but close enough (wow what a great job by the case manager at UAMS.)
We arrived and Fred was pretty sedated (he had been given an additional dose just before we arrived.)
He didn’t respond much except when I asked if it was ok if we took him home at about 270 knots and he awoke and said “yes!” I called and spoke to his wife to let her know that he was comfortable and we would be soon on our way to Pensacola and she gave a very tearful thank you and told us she would meet us at the hospice.
Thanks to God for keeping him stable in flight-he even seemed to enjoy listening to the air traffic controllers, occasionally reaching up into the air as if adjusting the instruments. When prompted at one time he even opened his eyes to look out the window at the sunset. I lamented what a beautiful sight God gave this pilot for his last flight.
We landed and as I was preparing to unload him being very careful not to bump him as he had very little platelets to stop a bleeding wound, the strangest thing happened. I took off and put up the headset he had been wearing and when I looked back down, Fred, this very large man that had been sedated the entire time we had been with him, had wide open eyes looking right at me. It actually startled me!
He had the bluest eyes that seemed to pierce right through me. I looked up to Dannielle our medic and told her and when I looked back, his eyes were shut and he was back to his sedated state.
We arrived to the hospice to his very grateful wife and I shared with her the photos of him flying in the beautiful sunset over the Arkansas sky. When she spoke to him he didn’t wake up much but did give a wide smile. We prayed with them and then in his delirium he began to swear and she said, “Oh here we go again…”
Later on our way home, I pondered why those piercing blue eyes had so much clarity for that specific moment after I took off his aviator headphones and then it occurred to me-that was Fred’s way in his feeble sickly sedated state to say “Thank you.”
The “thank you” is shared with all of you.