The wind beneath their wings

Hope Air flies patients to medical specialists and services

Lynne and Terry Worden flew Hope Air for Terry’s surgery.

When Terry Worden was advised he’d need surgery in Vancouver, he discussed with his wife Lynne how they would arrange transportation.

Going to the coast by car was fine, however the 10-hour drive back after surgery would be difficult.

“A friend told us about Hope Air so we went online to find out more,” Lynne said.

They soon realized they needed details of Terry’s surgery dates before they could finalize communication with the non-profit agency.

Once that was in place, the rest of the process went smoothly and the couple were thrilled with the service.

“We supplied our local doctor’s name plus the name of the surgeon, advised them of our income and they approved flights on Central Mountain Air for both of us to Vancouver and home again,” she added.

This process has been repeated for 15 other clients in Quesnel in the last six months and Hope Air has helped a total of 106 families in our community.

Hope Air began in 1986 when a young girl needed to travel from New Brunswick to Toronto.

“A corporation made a seat available on their corporate aircraft and the service began,” Hope Air communications manager Nandy Heule said.

“Since then we’ve arranged 85,000 flights for clients all across Canada. Last year more than 7,000 flights were arranged and this year it’s looking like more than 8,000.”

Eligibility for Hope Air assistance is income based, but Heule said they don’t require verification of income but they take each request very seriously. However, through conversations with the family doctor and the specialist, they usually get a better picture of the client’s situation.

“We take the family’s word on their financial situation,” she said.

Heule also encourages anyone looking to fly with Hope Air to begin the application process as soon as they have a confirmed appointment with the out-of-town specialist.

“We can complete the process in a couple of days if necessary but as one of the requirements is confirmation with doctors, that’s often where the holdup is in booking,” she added.

“If they apply online, they get immediate email responses. That way people feel confident they are in the process and we take their request seriously.”

Hope Air flies clients anywhere in Canada where they have routes, “obviously we need to be able to fly there,” Heule said.

The client’s medical appointment must be covered by BC Health Care Plan and the medical appointment must be needed in order to qualify.

How do they pay for all this free flying? Heule said they rely on their fantastic donors.

“We receive donations from across Canada from individuals and corporations and we have established relationships with airlines which provide discounts, free flights (through the Gift of Flight program) and some government funding,” she said.

“It’s really a unique service in Canada. We’re the only charity that does this on a national level.”

However, Heule said Hope Air is careful how they publicize their service which is dependent on donations.

“We don’t want to raise false expectations,” she said.

“We depend on referrals from medical professionals and agencies who help patients such as Canadian Cancer Society and we must do our due diligence on each application.”

Always looking for more donations to help more clients, Heule said if corporations, businesses, service clubs or individuals are looking to donate they would welcome it.

“We get really cool donations from small towns where people and organizations are creative in fundraising and we love when they choose Hope Air as the recipient.”

She added many people in the southern regions of Canada don’t realize the challenge for people in more remote areas to access medical specialists and services.

Terry and Lynne were amazed with the gift of flight from Hope Air and recommend people needing to travel to non-emergency appointments to contact the non-profit agency.

“A couple of weeks before surgery we received confirmation of approval and tickets were reserved,” Terry said.

“Once I was cleared to return home, Hope Air took care of all the pre-requisites for me flying back.”

To contact Hope Air visit www.hopeair.org, call toll free, 1-877-346-4673 or email mail@hopeair.org.

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