As a retired educator, Tim spent years nurturing at-risk youth, using his carpentry skills to teach green building to his students. At the time, he was also balancing a return to college with being a single father to his two children. His efforts paid off, and he won a leadership award for his work with teens, bestowed by the Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation in Wyoming.
Now, it’s Tim’s turn to be nurtured. Just over a year ago, he was diagnosed with Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer. Without knowing where to turn, his wife Susan started researching oncologists and quickly found Dr. Nghiem at the University of Washington, one of few doctors in the Pacific Northwest who specialize in treating and managing Merkel cell carcinoma.
“My wife is the real hero of this story,” says Tim. “She found the doctor in Seattle, but we needed to find a way to get there each month.” As is often the case with a cancer diagnosis, the financial strain of healthcare costs leaves little to no funds for transportation. The couple lives in Laramie, Wyo., and his life-saving medical care is 1,200 miles away – a journey of more than 17 hours by car.
Susan continued exploring their options, and it wasn’t long before, as Tim puts it, “Angel Flight West jumped out of heaven. You should have seen us! We were jubilant after finding your services. I’m positive we danced in the kitchen that night — with no music! Before this, the worry of traveling to care was as stressful as the cancer itself.”
To date, three AFW volunteer pilots have helped Tim and Susan make it to Tim’s far-off treatment: Command pilots Trevor Moody, David Taylor, and Stephen Elop. Tim says the experience of flying in the cockpit of two small planes, a Diamond DA42 Twin Star and a Piper PA-46, as well as traveling aboard Stephen’s Cessna Citation CJ3+ jet, was an experience he won’t soon forget. “Each pilot was so nurturing,” he says. “I’ve never met human beings with such empathy and kindness. It’s hard to describe how much they’ve changed my life.”
When flying in a small plane to treatment wasn’t possible, our partner Alaska Airlines donated tickets so the couple to make it to Tim’s critical care. “The staff members at Alaska make me feel like a VIP,” Tim says. “They always have a wheelchair waiting for me after the flight to take me where I need to go.”
Tim hopes to reconnect with Trevor, David, and Stephen after he beats his cancer. “I don’t know if you can appreciate how deeply they’ve impacted me,” he says, “and I think I have more years to my life because of Angel Flight West.”
A special thank you to Wyoming Community Foundation
With support from the Wyoming Community Foundation, Angel Flight West is reaching more Wyoming residents like Tim who need transportation in order to access health care and other essential services far from home. With their support, we’re honored to be here for more people like Tim. #wycf and #wycfgives