Passenger Bernie R. and Command Pilot Merilee Riely
AFW passenger Bernie R. was taking his gloves off when he felt pain in his shoulder. He went to the emergency care in Oron, UT where he lived, and was told he had a fractured clavicle. They put his arm in a sling and sent him home. Three months later, he stepped off of a curb and heard a snap followed by intense pain in his leg. An ambulance rushed him to Huntsman Hospital three hours away. The ride was excruciating, as they had no pain medication to give him, but Bernie persevered by biting down on a washcloth. X-rays revealed a fractured femur and a diagnosis of multiple myeloma; quite a surprise for this 70-year-old who never felt any symptoms.
Bernie needed a stem cell transplant and multiple visits. As the family has no car, he was relying on a statewide transportation company to drive him. If he was scheduled for an eight am doctor’s appointment, he would have to leave by three in the morning and endure the discomfort of the long trip. The social worker at Huntsman told Bernie about AFW, and he was very grateful to find himself in a plane that cut his transportation time to only 45 minutes.
Right before retiring, Bernie had been a postal worker for 14 years in Rome, NY, where he is from. Before that, he had worked in the commissary at Griffiths Air Force Base, so he knew a little about aviation and always “loved airplanes.” His dad was getting his pilot’s license before it became too expensive, and Bernie thinks that’s where he got his love of planes. “The first time I flew in an airplane was after I got sworn in the army and flew from Syracuse to Fort Knox…and I’ve loved it ever since.”
He is obviously enjoying his flights with AFW, saying that “all the pilots are friendly, and like to chit chat showing you things on the ground. It keeps me going looking at the scenery below.” He says, “I think Angel Flight is a great organization with all the volunteers working together. Where would the world be without AFW? It’s fantastic!” And AFW wishes Bernie more blue skies along the way.