Angels in the air: Angel Flight East provides NC family free flights for medical treatment

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MANTEO, N.C. (WTVD) -- A North Carolina mother who has been in Philadelphia for more than a month away from her daughter in Manteo while her son undergoes medical treatment was able to make a special weekend visit home Valentine's weekend thanks to the non-profit Angel Flight East.

"I have a 13-year-old here in Manteo," explained mom Amy Albarty.

Albarty's son, Sonny, received a double-lung transplant in 2014 and experienced rejection complications. He underwent a second double-lung transplant in January at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia or CHOP.

"We left on January the 3rd and temporarily relocated in Philadelphia," Albarty said. "You have to be local for when you get the call so we listed on the 3rd and we got a call on the 5th that there were lungs available and we've been in the hospital ever since."

Albarty's 13-year-old daughter stayed in Manteo with her father and the family has been apart the entire time. Albarty used Angel Flight East to get home for a quick trip.

She said she couldn't be more thankful for the free service.

Private pilots fly their own planes and pay for the fuel and cost of shuttling children or adults with medical conditions who need to get to medical treatment far from home.

"They go above and beyond to help people like us," Albarty said. "When you have a chronically ill family member that has to be seen so far away, it takes away from your home life, you can never settle, you're always on the go. So it just took out a lot of stress having to drive. It takes nine hours for us to drive."

For Albarty's flight home from Philadelphia to Manteo, the first plane she was on landed early because of a small mechanical issue. She was afraid she would have to cancel her trip, but another pilot, Ezra Rickards, was told about the mission, and he finished her trip home.

"We were headed south and in the spirit of the Angel Flight we volunteered to bring them down," Rickards said. "I can't even fathom what this family has been through. Any pilot that is able to do this should do this. It's a gift to us as well."

Angel Flight East serves the Northeastern region of the United States and links with other volunteer pilot organizations for destinations beyond their reach. Most Angel Flight East patients require air transportation numerous times for several years.

Angel Flight East can also help facilitate a compassion flight to visit a loved one in treatment or disaster relief.
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