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Take Off Talk

Distance can be a major barrier to accessing quality healthcare in a timely manner. For patients, access to air transportation can make all the difference in getting the treatment they need. However, flights can be expensive, and putting off medical care because of costs can put you or your loved ones at risk. That's where Angel Flight East comes in.

Welcome to Take Off Talk with Angel Flight East, a nonprofit dedicated to facilitating free air transportation for children and adults with medical conditions who need treatment far from home. Our organization covers a 14 state footprint from Virginia to Ohio to Maine and for further distances, we partner with other public benefit flying organizations.  No matter how many times you need to get to your medical treatment or see a loved one in need, we are here to help. Unfortunately, few people know about free services like ours, and thus cannot use them when needed. We don't know how many people forgo medical care because they don't have accessible transportation, and that's what this podcast is here to change.

Take Off With Passenger, Matt Hemker: Into A Safe Medical Journey

TTAFE - DFY 14 | Safe Medical Journey

How great your medical journey would be when someone takes you to your destination safely and securely? At the very least, it takes all the stress around commuting. Today, Matt Hemker shares how grateful he’s been taking off with volunteer pilots and keeping a secure and safe medical journey for him. David, the flight coordinator, had a great help in taking care of Matt’s flight. He describes his experience flying a small airplane. Hear how impactful Angel Flight is towards their passengers in this beautiful episode.




Watch the episode here


Listen to the podcast here


We have passenger Matt with us. Matt, if you don't mind, can you start telling our readers a little bit about your medical journey?

I've had Marfan syndrome my whole life. It has caused me to have multiple aneurysms in the aorta and throughout my body. Some of them have been emergent, and some of them have been a little more routine. It's gotten to the point where my heart needs a transplant. All of the surgeries I've had in the past caused a lot of antibodies to be built up inside of my blood, which has put me at a higher risk, even though I was already high risk. I get seen at Cleveland, which is about a three-hour drive, which is not out of our range. Cleveland referred me to NYU. NYU is too far for me to ride in a car. That's how we ended up with you guys.

How did you hear about Angel Flight East, to begin with?

It was my mom. She had an epiphany or something. She started to look online and found that you guys and Life Flight. We called both and you guys were the first ones to respond. You teamed up on my flight with Life Flight.

We work quite a bit with them.


TTAFE - DFY 14 | Safe Medical Journey


That's what the pilots had told me. There are two pilots they said that flew for both you guys and them. The pilots were awesome. They're great guys. They were more than you could ask for.

That's what we always say. We say they don't brag enough about themselves, so we have to brag about them for them. Do you happen to have a favorite flight that you've taken with us so far?


TTAFE - DFY 14 | Safe Medical Journey

Safe Medical Journey: Comfort and ease that puts on a patient.


That was the only flight that we took. It was 1 flight out there and 2 flights back. They weren't able to get a connecting flight in Pennsylvania somewhere. We had to drive from Pennsylvania to New York, but that was not a big deal. We rented a car and drove for a couple of hours, and we were there. On the return home flight, you guys sent an Uber and picked us up, and we took off from New York. We landed in Pennsylvania somewhere and then hopped on another plane. From there, we went to Van Wert, Ohio, which is right near our home.

I don't know if you guys can quite grasp the amount of comfort and ease that puts on a patient like me. I've got heart failure, so I can move, but not very far. If we were to go on a normal commercial flight, first of all, we have to drive at least an hour and a half, probably two hours to the nearest commercial airport. Navigating through a commercial airport is a big deal. This one is fifteen minutes from our house. It was so much easier and more relaxing for me and my wife. We didn't even have to think about it. We got on there and they took us. It was great.


TTAFE - DFY 14 | Safe Medical Journey


We always say nobody likes to be in a commercial airport when they're feeling well, let alone when they're sick, or they've gotten treatments. Flying with Angel Flight East takes that stress away from them.


TTAFE - DFY 14 | Safe Medical Journey


I agree completely. David, the flight coordinator that helped us, has been awesome. We are planning on taking another flight through you guys to NYU. They want to do an in-person evaluation of me. They're going to admit me for a couple of days and do some of their own testing. I knew I could call him up and say, “I need another flight.” He took care of it for me. It's wonderful.

We love David. He said we never give him a shout-out on here, so he'll be very happy about this one.

What would you do without Angel Flight? Would you be forced to do those commercial flights? Would you try to figure out the ground transportation?

We probably would've driven, and it would've been about a ten-hour drive. I don't know if I could even do it. It would probably be two days of travel because there's no way that I can sit in a car for ten hours, given the state that I'm in right now. You guys have been a godsend. Let's put it that way.

What would you like to describe to our readers what it's like to fly in a small airplane if they have never experienced it?

It is different. There's no doubt about that. I never once felt it was unsafe at all. I always felt secure, but you're in a lot smaller area than you are on a commercial flight. It's different, but it's also comforting to me. Knowing that it's just me, my wife, and the pilot. We're going. They're just for me, rather than being with a large group of people that are going there for everything. That gets at you.


TTAFE - DFY 14 | Safe Medical Journey

Safe Medical Journey: I always felt secure. It's in a lot smaller area than you are on a commercial flight. It's different, but it's also comforting.


What's one final thought you want to leave with our readers, whether it's a supporter, it's another passenger, somebody thinking about being a passenger, or anyone in between?

I've had issues in the past with accepting charity because I thought that I could handle it on my own. These guys do love to do this for you. My wife is Facebook friends with a lot of the pilots now. You're starting another care family. This is the way I could put it. It's great. That's all I can say.

Our pilots are an extra layer of support for the families they fly and then to see those friendships develop is always so special.

It was no big deal for us to drive for three hours. We got used to that. For somebody else, I could see how that could be an issue. If luckily, my wife still has good health and she's able to drive, I feel fortunate in that. I could see if you don't have anybody that can provide that transportation that far, that alone would just be life-changing in this area.


"If you don't have anybody that can provide that transportation that far, but with Angel Flight, it would just be life-changing."


We're so happy to be a part of your circle now, and we're going to be here as long as you need. I'm sure you know that by now. Anything that you need, your family needs, we're happy to help with.

That sounds great.

Thank you so much for sharing your story. We appreciate it.

Not a problem. Thank you.


David's going to be so happy he finally got a shout-out.

I also want to say this because I know my mother reads. Mom, they think we do good stuff. I do stuff.

We don't always travel to dive bars across the East Coast. We help people.


TTAFE - DFY 14 | Safe Medical Journey

Safe Medical Journey: We don't always travel to dive bars across the East Coast. We help people.


I made my mom go with me one time to a conference because Jess was somewhere else.

I ditched you for Florida.

It probably sounds legit. I made my mom drive with me from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Killington, Vermont. I told her it was for a rural healthcare conference. She's always heard about how much fun Jess and I have. She went with me to Killington, and I thought she was going to kill me.

Remember you all FaceTimed me and the bed was one of those ones that came out the wall. I forget what it's called. She was yelling at me and I was like, “Linda, that's what you get when you go to rural communities. It's always fun and interesting.”

I don't think that she wants to come to hang out with us anymore, but needless to say, she now believes that we do important stuff.

We do. That was so sweet. I didn't know we had why always knew we had that much of an impact on someone, but how he said it came across so clearly and heartfelt.

I love it. I hate that I love it, but because it kind of gives me goosebumps and sweaty eyes but I'm here for it. I am here for being a good impact in somebody's life other than yours, Jess.


TTAFE - DFY 14 | Safe Medical Journey


I didn't want to cry again. Nobody could witness that. We wouldn't be able to lie about it. It's a bad thing. I was hoping his son was going to get in the car because I wanted to be like, “Your dad's famous on TV.” He'd probably be like, “Dad, what are you doing?”

We're not even on TV.

It's like if we're on TV. We could be on TV.

Nobody would put us on TV. We're as it is. We have to pay to be on YouTube.

Yuki Washington might.

I don't think so, but we should tag him in this episode and let him know that he can have us on his show anytime.

I used to see him every year at that golf outing.

We are weeks into our show being live.

By the time this airs, it's going to be August 2023.

We are so happy to have you guys paying attention to us, hearing our stories, hearing our passenger stories, and our pilot stories. With this show being live, we already have almost 300 subscribers. Thank you so much for tuning in, learning all about it, being involved, and helping us reach our goal of sharing the mission of Angel Flight. You don't want to say anything?

I was going to say when we first started this, we only thought our families would tune in, and the people we sent it to and forced them to tune in. The fact that we already have almost 300 subscribers is amazing. We are so appreciative because our whole goal of doing this was to share our patient and pilot stories but also reach more people that may be in need of medical treatment but don't have a way to get there. We hope we continue to do what this is intended to do. You have a few laughs along the way at our expense.


TTAFE - DFY 14 | Safe Medical Journey

Safe Medical Journey: Our whole goal was to share our patient and pilot stories and to reach more people who may need medical treatment but don't have a way to get there.


We are so happy to have you guys. We can't wait for another few weeks of showtime and hopefully, another season, as long as Jess talks people into paying for us.

We're going to have to go out there and fundraise.

Hit the pavements. Bring your little buckets. We'll make signs.

We'll ring the bells.

I was going to say we could stand in the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-throughs or something.

Also, the Black Horse Tavern parking lot. I almost forgot about my favorite place.

You're embarrassing me.

We'll see you all in the next episode.


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