IT'S A FEEL GOOD THING WE DO
If I had to put into six words the reason I'm a part of Angel Flight those would be my choice. I had that brought home to me the other day when my sister and I transported a young woman and her sister from M.D. Anderson Hospital to Weiser Field in west Houston.
The patient's name was Marlene Al Hakayeem, and her sister is Laurene Dice. Laurene lives with her husband in Big Spring and Marlene, a physical therapist, came to the States from Lebanon for treatment of Lymphatic Leukemia. They had been in Houston since the first of September. Marlene had to have treatment every day after she spent that first month in the hospital. Her brother was a match for a bone marrow transplant and had come to America with her, and then began all the treatment that goes with that procedure. Her mother died with cancer three years ago and her father, who has diabetes, came with her to the US. Her sister put her life on hold to stay with her here in Houston, but now they were going back to Big Spring for the first time since they had come here. Marlene, not being a citizen, isn't eligible for aid and her hospital bill has reached $420,000.00, and the end isn't in sight. Of course that doesn't include living expenses for she and her sister. She can't tolerate the long car trip from Big Spring to Houston and back and they can't afford the airfare. They didn't know what they were going to do, and then Laurene picked up a magazine and saw a small article about Angel Flight. She asked Marlene's social worker at the hospital about it.
That's where my sister Peg and I came in. We're Ground Angels and were assigned as their ground transportation. It was cold and blustery and raining when we picked them up at 4:30 in the afternoon.
The traffic was horrendous. I could see that the older sister, Laurene was getting very nervous and I thought it was the traffic that had her so uptight. Peg noticed it also and we were trying to put them at ease. Marlene, in her face mask and with her baseball cap covering her head, was chattering and trying to make it a great adventure. We've all whistled in the dark at some time haven't we? Finally Laurene said, "I have to tell you the truth before we go on. I don't have Marlene's papers, not her passport or any other identification and they won't let us through security and we can't get on the airplane and I don't know what we're going to do."Their brother had driven back to Big Spring and had taken personal effects with him, including Marlene's papers. She was so frightened because she thought they were going to be a big airport, and she was afraid they might be arrested, or at least turned back. Remember that these are two beautiful, but Middle Eastern looking and sounding young women. They were here when the Sept 11 tragedy took place and you can imagine how frightened they must have been. We were able to put their minds at ease about the security and lack of papers, and drove on out to the air field laughing and chattering and finding lots in common between two ladies in their seventies and two in their twenties and early thirties. Laurene is so proud of her sister. She said that Marlene had cried only twice. Once when they told her that she has cancer and then again when her hair fell out. They told us that without Angel Flight it would probably be impossible to continue with the treatment. Along the way it came out that Laurene has a terrible fear of flying and will do almost anything to avoid it, even though she realizes that it's the expedient way to go. It's only love for her sister that gets her on a plane at all. It was getting late in the day by the time we got to Weiser and then came a shock for them. "Oh the planes are so small," but they plastered smiles on their faces, and it was hard to tell who was being brave for whom.
We hugged them, and put them in the care of pilot Michael Masteroff, and sat there in the warm car until the plane taxied away and was out of sight. They put their lives in the hands of people whom they'd never seen or heard of before. How much more faith or trust can you have? They were amazed that there were so many people, not only ready but eager, to help them and that it's all volunteer.
They just don't realize that they give us so very much, and that we take away more than we give. I love this feel good thing, don't you?
by Margaret Bowman