Driver’s ‘Little Buddy’ In Line for Kidney Transplant

Bus trips in his big, beautiful rig. The best trip will be on the day Jose goes to get a new kidney.
The day that shouldn’t have to come came on October 24, 2011 to eight-year-old Jose. It was the day his mother dreaded, the day he began dialysis for stage five chronic kidney disease. Jose was born with a congenital defect found only in male infants, posterior urethral valve. This is an abnormality causing obstruction of urinary flow. Unfortunately, doctors failed to detect it in time, and the boy’s kidney function progressively declined, leading to the need for home dialysis. This meant surgically installing an abdominal catheter, a device that uses the lining of the abdomen to filter waste products from the blood. Dialysis occurs overnight, which means Jose has to be in bed by 8:00 on school nights, and 9 on weekends. And this is what made Jose cry and ask the heartbreaking question, “When am I going to be normal?” “I’ve always treated my children the same,” his mother said. Besides Jose, Jennifer has a 10-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son. “I’ve never let him know he’s different. But now it’s hitting him that he is. He used to share a room with his brother, but now he has to have his own room because of the machines. He feels lonely.” The third-grader has also missed many days of school due to his illness and must leave his class every two hours to empty his catheter. Continue reading “Driver’s ‘Little Buddy’ In Line for Kidney Transplant”

‘Not Enough Thanks to Go Around’ for Angel Wheels

By Taylor Allen, Intern, Virginia Wesleyan College

It started as any regular doctor’s appointment for Ruben A., of Sullivan County, New York. “I told my doctor that I was having a lot of discomfort in doing normal day- to-day activities,” said Ruben, 68. After he explained his problem, his doctor did a PSA test. The test measures the blood level of the PSA, a protein produced by a man’s prostate. The higher the PSA, the more likely it is he has cancer. At the time of his appointment, Ruben’s PSA was about a 5, which is slightly high.

At this point his doctor recommended he get a biopsy and referred him to a specialist in Middletown, New York, about 60 miles away from his house. When Ruben got the results back, he was faced with a harsh reality—he had prostate cancer. This doctor referred him to the Orange Regional Medical Center’s Radiation Oncology Center for radiation treatments. Ruben was now faced with a dilemma. “I live on a fixed income,” he explained. “I could not afford to drive back and forth, 120 miles a day, in order to receive treatment. So I asked the Orange Regional Medical Center for options on how to help, and they led me to Angel Wheels.”

When Ruben was researching the different transportation options, he said he contacted many of them, but either they couldn’t help or didn’t return his calls. “I spoke with Jim Smith, and Angel Wheels seemed like a godsend. I cannot remember the exact number, but Angel Wheels provided me with at least four gas cards to get back and forth to my treatments.”

Continue reading “‘Not Enough Thanks to Go Around’ for Angel Wheels”

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”

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