Angel Flight East has been undeniably and incredibly supportive over the last two years. Angel Flight East’s mission statement states that they “provide free air transportation to qualifying patients and their families by arranging flights to distant medical facilities, delivering supplies to disaster areas, and reuniting families during desperate times.” This organization goes well above and beyond to support families during challenging, life-altering times. I can affirm to this because we have been fortunate to cross paths and receive such support during a family crisis.
On December 31, 2015 my nephew, Matthew Klinke, was just an ordinary kid hanging out when he experienced the most horrific accident of his life. Matthew wandered on his own and sadly ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time.
He approached a group of people around a man-made fire pit and someone neglectfully thought it would be cool to rise the fire with a small amount of gasoline. Immediately, upon pouring out of the spout, the individual holding the can dropped it because the flames flew up and struck his arm. Hence when the can was dropped, it splattered all over Matthew’s body. Matthew was on fire!
His athletic pants became saran wrapped to his legs. People helped him roll and pat out the flames with their clothing and hands. He was rushed to Kennedy Hospital in NJ and a few hours later was emergency transferred to Crozer Burn Center in Philadelphia where he was admitted for several days for third degree burns on his legs and second-degree burns to his arms, hands, and face. His legs had severe third degree burns, which went through the dermis and affected deeper tissues.
As a result, Matthew’s legs had mostly blackened, charred skin that required constant medical care at home, and very frequent medical appointments. There is no word in the world that can describe the pain that Matthew endured. It was a ‘miracle’ that Matthew’s entire body was not engulfed with flames and our family was devastated.
Matthew became an outpatient weeks later with continuous appointments, constant care, and many life altering changes causing physical, emotional, and social anguish. In the end of January, God granted us another ‘miracle’ – a friend contacted me about having Matthew treated at Shriner’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
We began the process for admittance immediately to get the best care for Matthew. We struggled with the thought of how to get Matthew to and from these appointments, to keep up with his schoolwork, and how my brother could manage time off from work to care for his son, but nothing was going to stop us.
Days passed as we awaited Matthew’s first appointment date and yet another ‘miracle’ from heaven was sent to us. Angel Flight East Executive Director, Ellen Williams, contacted me and asked “what can AFE do to support?” My first thought was “really?? is this happening?” My family cried tears of joy for all the support. Within days Dominic Aquilino, AFE Mission Coordinator, contacted me with flight information for Matthew’s first appointment with Boston Shriners on January 31, 2016.
Each appointment was approximately a three-day process of flying and meeting with burn specialists. The specialists at Shriners were experienced, gentle, and understanding. They provided outstanding medical care to Matthew and he had follow-up appointments every three-to-four weeks, which after six months Matthew’s appointments were scheduled every three months, six months, and now annually until Matthew is fully healed and satisfied with his progress.
Reflecting on the past two years, each time Matthew flew back and forth from Philadelphia to Boston, he would comment that the pilots were amazingly attentive to his needs, considerate of his feelings and physical scarring, and thoughtful in conversation. We want to thank all of the Angel Flight East Staff Coordinators, especially Dominic Aquilino and Ellen Williams, and the many Pilots, that volunteered their time and stepped in to ensure that our family had the support that it needed for flights to a distant hospital.
A special shout out to all the AFE Pilots that helped our family in this time of need… AFE Volunteer Pilots: Bruce Sigman, Bob Winner, William Sears, Bob Marmon, Dr. Ron Maimon, Dr. Sanjay Kansara, Ravi Arcot, Doug Wohl, Matthew Jessel, John Ordway, and Jason Kra. Matthew received the best medical care possible at Boston Shriner Children’s Hospital and Angel Flight East made these appointments seamless and less exhausting. In our eyes, the AFE organization has the most good-hearted, helpful, and compassionate people that are committed to helping others. AFE is a fabulous organization!