Since 2011, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, the 50 State Offices of Rural Health, and rural health stakeholders from across the country have set aside the third Thursday of November to celebrate National Rural Health Day (NRHD). This day promotes the “Power of Rural,” which brings much-needed attention to the ongoing efforts to communicate, educate, collaborate, and innovate to improve the health of an estimated 57 million rural Americans.
Last October, Owen of Superior, Montana, was diagnosed with pancytopenia, a condition characterized by bone marrow failure and the inability to produce blood cells.
Suddenly, amidst his steady diet of video games and Avengers films, this five-year-old needed his own team of superheroes — including medical experts who were available only outside of his rural community.
“We’re limited being in a rural area. There aren’t a lot of specialists [here] who know a lot about his disorder,” said Owen’s mom, Tamara, “so we know we’d need to go to Colorado for that.”
But a Colorado appointment meant more than 900 miles of travel, with drive times of fourteen or fifteen hours, and sometimes only for standard check-ups. Tamara knew Owen would need speedier options if they were going to confront his pancytopenia.
Enter: the volunteers of Angel Flight West, who not only got young Owen to and from his doctors in a fraction of the time — they helped him sidestep the exposure to germs that can commonly take place on commercial airlines.
“We flew private aircraft, both ways,” Tamara said. “When one pilot couldn’t make the pick-up, another pilot flew all the way out from Colorado to get us. He even waited several hours for us in the airport, and then flew us the entire way.”
Today, still overwhelmed by that display of commitment and generosity, Tamara says the aid they were extended by Angel Flight West has made all the difference in her son’s young life, especially as they live more than an hour away from the nearest town.
“Initially, we didn’t know Angel Flight West existed,” Tamara said. “But it’s made everything so much easier for us. It’s added zero stress. I just wish I had better words to say thank you.”
We’re honored to help Owen and his family fly to treatment again during their next Angel Flight in November.