**Written by Katie Martinez, Tristen’s mom**
When I was five months pregnant with my son Tristen, I found out he had cleft lip and palate. As a mother, I wanted nothing more than to have a beautiful healthy child but my heart was saddened to find out the long and tough road my son would have to endure. Not only was I worried about Tristen, I knew that doctor visits and surgeries wouldn’t come cheap. A relative happened to see a commercial on television about Shriner’s Hospital for Children; a non-profit organization that helps families and children in need! Once I received the call saying they would be able to help Tristen in all his medical needs, I finally thought to myself that things were finally coming together – we can do this! The only problem was they were located in Cincinnati OH, a ten hour, one way drive from my home in Virginia.
I was introduced to Angel Flight East, an organization of private pilots that donate their time to fly families from the east coast to their destinations to ensure they make scheduled appointments with as few issues as possible. Angel Flight pilots flew us to Cincinnati and back home all in one day with no expense to me or my family! Once I have an appointment date and time from Shriner’s, I call AFE and they handle virtually everything else. It has always been a pleasure speaking with everyone in the office.
When Tristen was five or six we had a routine check up and our pilot called to work out all the details for our trip. During the call I thought his voice and name was familiar. As it turned out, he was an old neighbor named Paul and his daughter used to be friends with my sister.
Paul has been our pilot ever since and he’s always made us feel comfortable. Because I am not a pilot, there have been a few times when I was worried about the weather. Paul has always been honest with me and informs me if pending weather issues will or will not present a problem. If we do end up flying, he will show me on the maps how we go around the storms to avoid any issues. The flight might take longer but he’s always made us feel safe.
We have been using Angel Flight East for 10 years now and Paul for about five years. They are awesome at what they do and always make things stress free. I am very blessed that I was put in contact with such a great organization that does everything in their power to make sure the patients needs are met. Thank you AFE (and Paul) for everything you do!