The mission and purpose of Hospice Angel Airlines is “…to ensure that no financially-needy senior citizen or hospice patient is denied access to distant specialized medical evaluation, diagnosis or treatment for lack of a means of long-distance commercial airline transportation.”
Hospice Angel Airlines Story
On a cold April morning, a husband and his wife leave their snug farmhouse in rural North Dakota and head down a road of ice for Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Their car is old—a 1980 Chrysler Le Baron—and the way is long, 550 miles each way.
For two years, Myron and Kathleen made that trip, driving on rough roads and often during the “snowy, blowy” winter, as Kathleen describes it, seeking a cure for Myron’s lymphoma.
“We’re not working now. We have a small farm, so there’s not a lot of income.”
Before Myron, 63, got sick, the couple ranched on their 350-acre farm in Goodrich, land that had belonged to his parents before they died. The illness began with weakness and weight loss, leading Myron and his wife to quit the cattle business in 1999. He went to work at the Dakota Growers Pasta plant.
“He lost a lot of weight. It was hard to breathe because of fluid back-up. He had night sweats,” Kathleen says.
Their doctor, a general practitioner, told Myron there was nothing wrong. “He should have known,” she insists. “Night sweats are the classic symptom.”
When symptoms worsened, the couple switched to a physician who diagnosed lymphoma. Chemotherapy treatments in Bismarck were unsuccessful, with the cancer returning after a brief remission.
Kathleen suggested they try Mayo Clinic. In 2003 Myron went to Rochester for a bone marrow transplant. “That didn’t work either,” she says.
Back home and with dangerously low blood counts, Myron was referred by his doctor in Bismarck to M.D. Anderson in Houston. With limited funds, Kathleen “did a lot of calling.”
One of the contacts gave her Hospice Angel Airlines’s number.
The charitable organization arranged a round-trip flight for the two. Myron was hospitalized for some three weeks and achieved good results from his treatment, an innovative chemotherapy regimen called RCHOP (Rituxan and CHOP).
CAT scans reveal his cancer is now in remission. Kathleen and Myron wrote to Hospice Angel Airlines expressing gratitude for providing airline tickets. “With your help to get to M.D. Anderson, doctors found a treatment to help Myron.”