Lifeline to citizens in need

Hope Air offers free flights to families requiring critical health services

Clockwise from top left: Terry Worden

Hope Air isn’t an airlines, they don’t maintain routes or aircraft. They are a lifeline for Canadians who are in financial need and must travel far from home to access healthcare regardless of age or illness.

In the past 12 months, Hope Air has arranged more than 8,300 flights to healthcare and more than 90,000 since 1986.

But relatively few Canadians have ever heard of Hope Air, never mind accessed their vital services.

For a small group of Quesnel residents Hope Air has been what they describe as “a Godsend.”

Paula Barrett was medevaced to Vancouver in 2011 for a heart attack, but had to raise the money for her return flight to Quesnel.

“No one told me about Hope Air,” she said.

She was again medevaced to Vancouver in 2014, however this time Paula knew about Hope Air. She was advised of the service by Dr. Katalinic’s receptionist in Quesnel.

It was a good thing as within seven days of her arrival at VGH her husband David was medevaced to St. Paul’s Hospital, also with a heart attack.

“The two of us were sent home together by Hope Air,” she said with a smile.

And that led Paula, in conversation with her neighbours Lynn and Terry Worden, to tell them about Hope Air.

“We were talking about surgical options for Terry [he was facing surgery in Vancouver] and our trip home with Hope Air came up in the conversation,” Paula said.

Ray Simmonds read about the Wordens experience with Hope Air in an article in the Observer, contacted the non-profit organization and found he qualified.

He was scheduled for a knee replacement at Vancouver’s UBC hospital and his wife needed the same surgery. Together they travelled both ways with Hope Air.

“They arranged everything with the flights for both of us,” Simmonds said.

“I’ve told lots of people about Hope Air. I figure its a Godsend – we’re being left out living in the north.”

He added or families end up with lots of debt from travelling to appointments out of town.

However, possibly the most poignant story involves eight-year-old James Roy who must travel to Vancouver Children’s Hospital for his rare heart condition.

In order to diagnose his condition, James and his mother Vicky travelled from their home in Nazko to Quesnel then onto the Northern Health bus to Vancouver.

“It was an 18-hour journey with a young child, he was very good but that’s a gruelling trip,” Vicky said.

“James’ cardiac specialist said travelling on the bus was unacceptable given James’ condition. She booked the flights for his December 2014 appointment.”

Vicky said with James’ heart condition they are facing many more trips to Vancouver.

All four praise the services of Hope Air.

Hope Air is the only registered, national charity that provides free flights to people who cannot afford the cost of an airline ticket to get to medical expertise or specialized medical technologies that usually exist only in larger urban centres.

In Quesnel, 25 clients used the services of Hope Air for a total of 113 (one-way) flights. As each client requires an average of three or four flights (two visits to Vancouver) at an average cost to Hope Air of $230 a flight, that adds up to $25,990 in 2014.

After their wonderful experience with Hope Air, Terry and Lynn Worden have become Hope Air Ambassadors and take every opportunity to spread the word.

They are looking to raise money for Hope Air and promote the program.

“There’s a few ways, besides direct donations, to help Hope Air continue their much-needed services,” Lynn said.

“People can donate their Royal Reward Points on RBC credit cards to Hope Air or help us raise funds through fundrazr.com.”

Lynn and Terry have set up this crowd funding opportunity online and are looking to raise $10,000 which will fund as many as 35 flights for people in Quesnel Like James, Ray, Terry and Paula.

Quesnel Hope Air ambassadors are also looking to connect with other families in the community who have benefited from Hope Air.

Anyone interested in sharing their story can e-mail tlworden@telus.net or Anna du Bois at Hope Air, adubois@hopeair.ca.

The Wordens can also help anyone looking to access Hope Air’s service or visit the Hope Air website, hopeair.ca and click on request a flight.