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Fly-in raises money to fund Angel Flights

July 24, 2005|By BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

When Chambersburg resident Morgan Crouch was 11, local doctors diagnosed her unusual rash as a spider bite, and her extreme tiredness as chronic fatigue syndrome.

It turned out that Crouch, now 23, had Lyme disease, and because it was not treated properly at the outset, it became chronic. Her mother, Mona Crouch, found an internist in East Hampton, N.Y., on Long Island's east end, who specializes in the treatment of Lyme disease.

She took her daughter there once a year, making the eight-hour drive to the office of Dr. Joseph J. Burrascano Jr. and paying to stay in a motel overnight.

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Then Burrascano suggested Angel Flight to them.

Angel Flight is a nonprofit organization that provides air transport services for patients in need of medical treatment far from home. Mercy Medical Airlift runs Angel Flight's mid-Atlantic program.

Now, Morgan flies out of Hagerstown with an experienced pilot in his own small plane, and it costs her nothing. She visits Dr. Burrascano every XX months now. The flight takes two hours each way.

"The pilots are helpful and friendly," Mona Crouch said. "They go the extra mile."

While they are still in the air, the pilot calls a taxi for Morgan's trip from the airport to the doctor's office.

"It has made a significant difference going to (Dr. Burrascano)," Morgan said. She adheres to his regimen of a combination of drugs and vitamins.

Having Angel Flight available to her "means I might actually get my Lyme into remission and do the things I want to do," Morgan said. A student at Penn State Mont Alto, she plans to become a lawyer.

The USUA Millennium Flyers Club 201 and the Chambersburg Skydiving Center hosted the sixth annual Mercy Medical/Angel Flight Fly-in Saturday to raise money for Angel Flight. Last year, the event put $1,500 in Angel Flight's coffers, according to Brian Fogal, a pilot with Millennium Flyers.

Membership in the club is not limited to those with ultralights or airplanes. "Anyone with a love for aviation is welcome," Fogal said.

The day-long event featured classic and ultralight aircraft displays and rides, raffles, food and activities for children at the Franklin County Regional Airport, formerly called Chambersburg Municipal Airport.

Wes Boyer, vice president of the 10-state mid-Atlantic region of Angel Flight, based in Virginia Beach, Va., said that Angel Flight flew 21,000 missions in the U.S. last year. In Pennsylvania, there were 348 missions, 257 for adult patients and 91 for children.

The public benefit of those 348 missions was $300,000, he added, because the pilots volunteer their time and their planes. "They are amazing people with big hearts," he said.

Boyer said he coordinated a transplant mission a few months ago where the patient, his wife and the pilot met at the airport, but the weather was too bad for a flight. "The pilot told the patient and his wife to get into this truck, and he drove them four or five hours to Pittsburgh," he said.

Boyer's office contacts the families in need, obtains a medical release from the doctor and notifies the pilot. The office also educates the public to "let people know who we are and what we do," Boyer said. "Our mission is that no one go without access to the best medical treatment because they can't afford the transportation to get there."

Angel Flight has 115 pilots it can call on in Pennsylvania, 1,000 in the mid-Atlantic region and 6,000 nationwide. Boyer estimates that in seven years Angel Flight will be flying 100,000 missions. "We have to continue the recruitment process to meet that need," he said.

Patients must qualify for an Angel Flight, Boyer said. "We can't take someone who is going to need medical attention in the air," because the planes are private aircraft with no flight nurses or medical equipment. Patients must be ambulatory.

Boyer took his first ride in an open cockpit plane Saturday and said that Franklin County "looks like a painting" from 3,500 feet.

Angel Flight may be contacted at 1-800-269-3797; e-mail: angelflight@eros.com; Web site: www.angel-flight.org

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