Flight Log

Resources and Stories from Angel Flight West.

Unexpected Help: Tristan Travels 500+ Miles to Treatment

Ashlee was eight-and-a-half months pregnant when her three-year-old son, Tristan, was diagnosed with leukemia. Suddenly, their family’s world was turned upside-down. Life was a dizzying blur, full of unanswered questions.

“There’s so much information,” Ashlee said. “You don’t know what you’re going to need. You don’t know how you’re going to survive.”

To further complicate matters, Ashlee and her husband, Chris, soon learned their nearby oncologist in Billings, Montana, had a vacation scheduled during their time of need. The family would have to travel to Denver for Tristan’s major procedures.

“We went from February to August with no doctor in Billings,” Ashlee said. “Consistency and communication became difficult for us, because suddenly we needed to travel to Denver once a month.”

Even as Chris and Ashlee found a sliver of flexibility in their work schedules, they knew an eight-to-ten-hour drive with small children would be too exhausting and unmanageable. It was clear they needed help.

“We applied for Angel Flight West,” Ashlee said. “That was such a lifesaver. Thanks to them, we got down [to Denver] in less than half the time. The pilots were amazing, and willing to do anything for us. One paid for our Uber. One picked us up from the hospital.”

<em>Command Pilot Stephen Zimmermann was one of four pilots to help Tristan and his family travel to treatment<em>

As Tristan’s treatments grew more complicated, ultimately increasing the family’s need for another flight, Ashlee and Chris were gratified to find their new friends at Angel Flight West were on call.

“Tristan’s series of [chemotherapy] shots were hard to plan for,” Ashlee said. “We had to be in Billings one day and Denver the next. But we got an Angel Flight for that, too. A volunteer came with his jet, and we flew right into Laurel, [Montana], two minutes from our house. I just couldn’t believe it.”

Ashlee notes that, in addition to providing swift and safe transportation for her family, Angel Flight West’s pilots gave Tristan a welcome distraction from the uncertainties of his illness.

“He was so excited to see the airplanes, and he asked all the pilots what each knob does,” Ashlee said. “On the second flight, the pilot let Tristan join him in the cockpit and turn the controls, just to see how the flaps move. He said, ‘Look, Mom! It changes!’”

For Ashlee and Chris, this spirit of generosity and calm provided invaluable support as they made sense of their son’s uncertain condition. Their experience with Angel Flight West even reinforced her own eagerness to help other parents facing challenging times.

“[AFW volunteers] don’t even know us, yet they’re willing to take hours out of their days and help us,” Ashlee said. “We’re looking at how to support other local cancer and leukemia families. Showing up unexpectedly means a lot.”

Do you know someone who needs help traveling to treatment? Reach out to us today and see if Angel Flight West can help.

Article by David Radcliff

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