no, not the guy at the swimming pool.

i fly Angel Flights.  helping people get to medical appointments by volunteering my plane, gas, and time to get them there.  i have also been volunteering for a special subset of Angel Flight missions for years now- – LIFEGUARD flights.  LIFEGUARD flights are time critical missions.  these are for the transplant patients.  an organ becomes available and they have a limited time window — usually 4 to 6 hours — to get from where they live to the hospital with the organ.

Angel Flight

Last night was my very first LIFEGUARD flight.

i got the call around 5pm.  Just home from work, i had changed into my bike clothes and was trying to convince myself that it really wasn’t that hot and i should get my sorry butt out on the bike trail.  Charlie (female type) at Angel Flight mission control asked if i was available to take a LIFEGUARD, from a nearby airport to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

i’d preplanned my LIFEGUARD missions just in case.  That way, i’d know the length of the flight and whether i could make it in time.


i left my flight bag, with the preplanned flights, in the plane.

A quick mental (yeah, “wild ass guess”) calculation of the trip time and a quicker look at the weather map to make sure there were no tsunamis or typhoons or the like and i said, “Sure, i’ll take it.”

The clock is ticking.  I have until 9:30pm to get the patient to Pittsburgh.  A guess of a 2 hour flight, plus 30 minutes to get to the nearby airport, plus 15 minutes to get to my airport, plus 15 minutes to get the plane pre-flight checked and up in the air.  i should be able to get there an hour plus before the deadline.

Despite having an hour to spare, i’m already nervous about the time.  i bash around the house, quickly changing out of bike clothes, and out the door.

Zooming off to the airport, i take the road i usually do…and run into a traffic backup.  A farm tractor, leisurely putting along, is at the head of the line.  “Breathe, GnuKid, breathe.”  Thankfully he turns off.  i scurry to the airport (tapping my toes impatiently at the one red light) and start checking the plane over.


Low on gas.  I’d been on a long pleasure flight the weekend before and the gas pumps were blocked by other airplanes when i got back.

To the pumps, fuel up, and into the air, to the other airport, and there they are, waiting on me.  Quick goodbyes to those staying behind, and the patient and his mom board the (stinkin’ hot just sitting in the sun) airplane.  Up and away and heading eastbound to Pittsburgh.

The guy fell asleep and i talked with the mom.  Come to find out the guy was mugged sophomore year of college and shot with an AK-47.  Blasted his insides.  Pancreas, liver, small intestines were all messed up.  Amazingly, the liver and pancreas made a remarkable turnaround, so he just needed a small intestines (i didn’t even know you could transplant those).

that's me on the left...not

He’s been on the transplant list for two years and finally got the call…just as they walked in the door from great-grandma’s funeral.

Landed right around 8pm (how’s THAT for a wild ass guess?).

On the way in to the terminal building, the mom said, “Yes, great grandma was called to Jesus…and when she got there, she asked Jesus for a small intestine for my boy…”.  And then, i guess, Jesus went out and killed someone so he could have that small intestine <ducks from impending lightning bolt>.

Saw them to the cab and off to the hospital, then turned around and went right back, landing at home base at 10:30pm.

i know i did a good thing.  But, strangely?  i wasn’t as jazzed as i thought i’d be doing a mission like this.  And I found myself thinking, it’s *just* a small intestine.  It’s not like it was a heart or lungs or some other awesome organ.  Oh well.

Waiting to hear (which i never may, such is the life of a volunteer Angel Flight pilot) on how the operation went.

But it was a good thing.  I helped.

And ready for the next one…crap…left my flight bag in the airplane.


Tags: , , , ,

13 Responses to “Lifeguard”

  1. daisyfae Says:

    Great-Grandma is a heavenly mafioso? calling in hits so Junior can ditch the colostomy bag… is this a reality show?

    • thegnukid Says:

      nah. if it were a reality show, i’d have been flying a jet with a starlet co-pilot. as it was, it was my SUV of a plane…and my starlet co-pilot was off drinking with her friends.

  2. savannah Says:

    i love the singlemindedness of religious people, sugar. *sigh* daisy pegged it perfectly…the ultimate godfather. xoxxoxo

    • thegnukid Says:

      chuckle. yep, the true definition of ‘godfather’. best i can do when folks start talking like that is nod my head respectfully.

  3. nursemyra Says:

    What a wonderful thing to do

  4. Mitzi G Burger Says:

    You rock! You were probably so exhausted from concentrating on flying an aircraft with an intestine-less boy inside that you had no energy left to feel excited post-mission.

    • thegnukid Says:

      aw, thanks. yeah, exhaustion…or those three gin and tonics just before take off.

      (note to the FAA ‘big brother’ reading this — just kidding!…[it was only two])

  5. cyberdryad Says:

    I’m so glad to see a post from you! I was tired of the grammar one, because I saw it EVERY DAY when I visited your blog to see if you had updated it yet. Good to see a new one, and good to see a post about something so cool! A friend of mine is in the ICU waiting for a new liver… and if he doesn’t get one he probably won’t make it another month. Good to know that there are people like you helping to make transplants happen. Thank you.

    • thegnukid Says:

      well, thanks for stopping by EVERY DAY even though i was a slug.

      it was quite the rush. and, yeah, there are lots of us out here who volunteer. it might just be a small dent, but i’m making a mark.

  6. Rob Says:

    Good for you gnukid. You are an inspiration!

  7. mstngsal22 Says:

    Yay! Gnu! You know when you get to analyzing each case, you might find something about each one that won’t “jazz” you – a heavy smoker might need lungs, a former boozer might need a liver, a real asshole might need a heart (organ-wise, not Oz-wise) – so step back and know you’re a hero whether it’s tubing, a pump or a fingernail getting replaced – MAJOR good karma coming to you. And you’re right – someone’s got to die before any other person gets any other organ – it’s such a tragic thing when you turn around the mirror, and people should be careful (even when they’re elated, YES) about how they say things.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: