Reuniting a Mom with her family after 5 weeks of treatment for life-threatening infections

Mother of three, triplets actually, found hope with PALS and a free medical flight

This Mother’s Day, we’re honoring all the amazing Mom’s out there and sharing a story of one of our passengers, Kimberly.

A Mom of triplets whose strength and perseverance inspire us all. We share a recent conversation we had with her below.

 

[PALS] Can you tell us about your treatment journey so far?

[Kimberly] My treatment journey has had many ups and downs.  Along the way, we’ve found many blessings, including when my friend, Barbara, contacted PALS about helping me get back to my family in Tennessee. 

It began long before my NY trip in late January 2021, but I’ll start there.  I went to NY to see experts who could treat j-pouch complications that I had been dealing with for 4 years.  At the time that I traveled, of course, we had the Covid 19 pandemic.  Getting on a commercial flight was stressful because I was so sick, but I knew that the surgeons there were world-renowned and could finally bring healing to my body.  I was bringing a friend along to help me navigate appointments and surgery recovery, so I also risked exposing her to Covid.  As a 9-year breast cancer survivor, I had traveled since having a right-side mastectomy, but I had some issues that day with TSA for our departure flight.  I have a prosthesis and I also had a PICC line (due to extreme dehydration and the need for IV fluids three times a week).  While I understand the need to keep passengers safe, the additional screening by the TSA brought about more anxiety and embarrassment to an already stressful situation.

Mom traveling on a free medical flight to cancer treatment
Kimberly traveling on one of her PALS Medical Flights without the worry of commercial travel

Fast forward to NY.  What was originally a trip that would last 7-10 days and that brought hope to myself and my family, turned out to be much more.  I went to NY for a j-pouch revision but was malnourished and extremely sick, something that would lead to serious complications a few days after my surgery.  There was an expectation for a challenging recovery period after the surgery, including a temporary ileostomy, but nothing would prepare me for what was to come.

The day before my friend and I were scheduled to fly home, less than 24 hours after I was discharged from the hospital, I ended up in the ER fighting for my life.  The complication caused serious, life-threatening infections internally and, for a couple of weeks, we were not sure about my recovery.  I spent another 17 days in the hospital (for a total of 24 days).  While I was there, my triplets turned 13.  Valentine’s Day came and went.  After being in NY for five weeks, I was struggling to figure out when I would see my family again.  My focus was on getting well enough so that I could return to Tennessee, but then came the anxiety surrounding the logistics of getting there. 

I was afraid, because of the complications, to fly a commercial airline.  We considered having family come from Tennessee and pick us up in New York by car, but due to serious Covid travel restrictions and testing requirements, that was almost impossible.  My friend and I searched for flights to find one with the fastest, most direct route.  I would be traveling with a PICC line, an ostomy bag and, because of the infections, an abdominal drain.  To further complicate matters, I was on a strict IV antibiotic regimen that had to be administered via my PICC line every 12 hours, making it difficult to coordinate Uber rides and flights. And during the planning Barb remembered PALS.  

[PALS] How did PALS help?

She knew of someone who was on a flight during a medical crisis.  She reached out to PALS and they said they might be able to help.  I was hesitant, feeling that I did not “deserve” this sort of help.  But this is exactly what I needed.  I was desperate to see my children as I had been gone since Jan 24th . I needed a way to get home without the risk of getting sicker.  But also, a way where I could deal with my IV antibiotics and my ostomy bag.  I was still very weak and had a long road to recovery.

Son reunited with his mom after receiving cancer treatment and traveling on a medical flight for free
An emotional embrace by her kids after 5 long weeks away from them for treatment

Paul, our pilot, agreed and we had no idea what was to come.  We were greeted at the airport (a small one in NJ) by friendly faces on the morning of Feb 26th.  When we met Paul and saw the plane, I felt a wave of relief as I knew in just a few hours I would be back with my family.  He was kind and so professional.  And when we arrived in TN, we were even able to grab a quick photo with him as a treasured reminder of someone who brought us back together after a very difficult time.  It was one of those “ups” in my journey.  One where we felt blessed by others and I cannot thank Paul and those at PALS enough for what they did to bring me back to my family in a way that made me feel so much more relaxed and comfortable.  It was also so much quicker, which was so helpful under the circumstances. 

The pilots who work with PALS are wonderful people who volunteer their time to help families during a time of need.  Their selfless acts to fly patients and family members to appointments or home, etc, are just really “mini-miracles” for all of those who get to fly.  I am so grateful for the efforts of PALS and the pilots because they bring peace during a time filled with so much uncertainty. 

Kimberly’s daughter Emma shared her gratuity for PALS as well

"I think PALS is a wonderful company for those in need. There are so many people who need this kind of assistance. It is a great mission with great people!"

"I want the world to know that even though some things might not be ideal, there are so many people that love her [my mom]"
Emma
Kimberly's Daughter
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