Angel Wheels Transports Child to ‘Best Doctors in the World’

Kristina’s family of four recently traveled on Amtrak, with tickets provided by Angel Wheels.
By Allison Garrett, Intern, Norfolk Academy

Kristine first started to become concerned when her two-year-old son, Zeq, weighed only nineteen pounds and was severely malnourished. His body rejected all foods, and Kristine was forced to continue breast-feeding him since that’s the only nutrition he could tolerate. When she took him to get checked for allergies, his tests came out positive for every food. The doctors thought it was a skin disease; Zeq was scratching his arms and face until they bled. A doctor recommended they schedule an appointment with a dermatologist at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. The dermatologist at Hopkins knew Zeq’s problem was bigger than a skin disease. The family, who traveled to Baltimore from their home in Virginia Beach, Virginia, saw an immunologist that day who diagnosed Eosinophilic Esophagitis or EoE. Kristine recalls, “I felt like the weight was lifted off my shoulders and thrown right back at me.” Her husband, Mark, works as a shipyard electrician.

EoE is considered a rare disease. It occurs when eosinophils, a type of white blood cells that normally are found in the bloodstream but collect in the esophagus instead. These cells attack foreign objects in the body to protect from disease and infection, but in the esophagus they are deadly. The eosinophils attack any food the patient swallows as if it were a foreign object, virtually making the patient allergic to every food. To diagnose EoE, immunologists take an upper endoscopy and a biopsy of the esophagus to estimate the amount of eosinophils in the patient’s esophagus. One thousand eosinophils in the esophagus is considered high. Zeq had 80,000!

When the physicians at Johns Hopkins diagnosed Zeq, they knew his case was very serious. They asked the family to stay over Christmas. Zeq has 11 doctors working together on his case. These include an immunologist, dermatologist, and nutritionist as well as many others who work together to evaluate his digestive system. Zeq received a chemo drug, metrotrexine, to reduce the amount of eosinophils in his esophagus and the inflammation in his gut. He also started using a feeding tube to eat which he still uses every four hours; each feeding takes one hour. Without a home nurse Kristine must wake up twice every night to administer Zeq’s feeding tube. The Commonwealth of Virginia does not require feeding tube formula to be covered under health insurance, and without it the formula costs $5,000 a month. Thankfully for Zeq’s family, their insurance is based in Maryland. The entire cost for Zeq’s treatments, travel, and medications is staggering—around $35,000 a year. Continue reading “Angel Wheels Transports Child to ‘Best Doctors in the World’”

Angel Wheels Partners with Clinics to Provide Wheels That Heal

By Ryan Miller, Intern, Old Dominion University

Southeastern Virginia Health System (SEVHS) in Newport News is one of eight community health centers in the greater Hampton Roads area that helps the insured, underinsured, and uninsured. They also are one of four clinics in the area that offers health treatment for the homeless, otherwise known as Health Care for the Homeless (HCH). SEVHS is part of the National Association of Community Health Centers. In the Commonwealth of Virginia alone, there are roughly 71 health clinics with a similar system of health care treatment. In this year, some 982 homeless visitors have come to SEVHS, and approximately 70 of them traveled further on Angel Wheels, a ground transportation program operated by the nonprofit charity Mercy Medical Angels.

I made a visit to the clinic to get some coverage on SEVHS and its progress, and notably in a time of a heightened health care debate in the country. Like Angel Wheels, SEVHS is considered a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity and has a staff of doctors certified in a wide scale of basic medical treatment, which also includes dental and family care. Even health insurance is offered at the clinic. Needless to say, the argument doesn’t stop SEVHS from delivering optimal service.

The community health center and its Angel Wheels partner have notable histories. SEVHS began from an initiative effort by the Whittaker Memorial Hospital in Newport News in the late 1970s. Community members gauged development of the health services project with a board of directors set to fund and run the clinic for those in need. The clinic had become independent of government funding and taxpayers alike. Continue reading “Angel Wheels Partners with Clinics to Provide Wheels That Heal”

In Memoriam

Bill Connor

William L. (Bill) Connor, founder of Angel Bus, age 50, lost his four-year battle with leukemia in September, 2008.

Bill developed his love of buses as a kid growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota.  As a youth, he had no other transportation, so he got everywhere he needed to go on a bus.  Later he obtained his own motorcoach, and his family said he was never happier than when he was behind the wheel.  In 1999, Bill’s son Jaran was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and Bill formed a nonprofit corporation, Angel Bus, which was modeled after Angel Flight, to transport terminally ill children in luxury and conversion coaches.  Jaran died in 2004 and 20 days after his death, Bill was diagnosed with acute leukemia.  He battled his illness for the ensuing four years. His goal was to reach age 50 and he did achieve that.

Home For Christmas

Angel Wheels volunteer drivers Les and Pam Davidson were honored to provide the gift of transportation to Osvaldo L., a ten-year-old boy, just prior to Christmas.  Osvaldo requires routine medical appointments at UCLA Medical Center due to liver and bone marrow transplant.

Les and Pam picked Osvaldo and his mother up at the UCLA Medical Center and took them to their home in Ontario, California.  Osvaldo’s family did not have the means available to bring him home before Christmas.

In typical Angel Wheels fashion, Les and Pam thanked Angel Bus for the opportunity to help out.

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