January 28, 2021 was a day our family will never forget—our lives were forever transformed with our six-year-old son’s diagnosis of a brain cancer called Medulloblastoma. At the very start of this journey, we were transferred by air ambulance from our island, Maui, to Oahu, because our community did not have the resources needed to treat our son. We knew this would be a challenge we would have to face on our son’s road to recovery.
Tekauri also has an older brother and a three-year-old sister. Before his diagnosis, both my husband and I were working full-time to support our family, and the cost of living in Hawaii is not cheap. Our combined income was is less since my husband is the only one who can work because Tekauri needs special daily care.
It is tough to navigate a journey with limited resources, and we don’t know where we would be without the love and support from our community—and this especially includes Angel Flight West. My biggest worry was losing my son, as he had so much more living to do, experiences to be had, and we just needed more time with him as a family. I added up all the hours we saved in travel through the airport since we had been flying with Angel Flight West: 72 hours! Instead of 72 hours spent at the airport, this time was spent at home, where Tekauri was with his family and in a comforting place.
Living on an outer island, we don’t have the major medical facilities that the island of Oahu has. We don’t have the financial resources to move our home closer to treatment, nor do we want to burden others, so we needed to fly weekly for our son’s treatment. Our experience prior to learning about AFW was certainly more stressful, largely because of COVID. We didn’t know which of the hundreds of people we passed in the airport could be infected and how it might impact our immunocompromised child. Immediately our worry was greatly reduced when we started flying with AFW. We could wait in our vehicle for our pilot and plane to arrive, we could drive up to the plane and board right away, and it was just us and the pilot. That has been such a huge burden off our shoulders. AFW and their volunteer pilots have generously provided us with 38 private flights, which easily amounts to thousands of dollars and has alleviated what feels like hundreds of pounds of worry from our minds.
It has helped us to focus our energy on the positive and what matters most to our family—being together as a whole and making creating joyful experiences together.
And then there are the relationships that grow from the patient and caregivers with the pilots and staff that are part of the Angel Flight West experience. Working with the AFW coordination team is so fluid and the flight confirmations get sent straight to my email. The whole team is quick at responding when I reach out to them. One special pilot is Yosuke Tanaka, an AFW volunteer who has flown the majority of missions for Tekauri. Our son loves Yosuke and the little blue plane he flies. Tekauri was so excited the first time he saw that plane parked and waiting to take him to Oahu. When Yosuke first met Tekauri, he was still not able to talk, and his gross motor skills were weak. He has seen our son make great progress and always reminds him how much stronger he is getting each time he sees him. This pilot goes out of his way to make patients and caregivers feel comfortable, as well as being so accommodating to schedule changes beyond our control.
And just recently we met another pilot, Ace, who flew a few of Tekauri’s missions—just amazing, he took the time to show our son some whales along the way to Oahu and it was so special. The staff at Air Service Hawaii, where we fly in and out of, are also so flexible, always so happy to see us, and so helpful. In the past, air travel and the airport brought anxiety. But it is different now—we all look forward to it and that is because of Angel Flight West.
Cancer is not easy for anyone. So much is unknown. It’s especially hard when you lack the access to life-saving resources. All our family wants is more time, more joyful experiences, and a high quality of life for our loved ones who are impacted by this diagnosis. Through the missions that have flown our son from the Maui to Oahu, the family that is Angel Flight West has been a light for us, easing our burden and ensuring our son is able to get the life-saving treatment that he needs. Thank you for giving my son something to look forward to on the hard trips to the hospital—he enjoys the little planes even more than the big ones now, and we are deeply grateful for these angels.
Na’u me ke aloha,
Kala, Tekauri’s mother
To learn more about volunteering with AFW, click here: https://angelflightwest.org/pilot-page/
To view passenger eligibility and request a flight, click here: https://angelflightwest.org/need-a-flight/