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Non-profit flies northern Michigan patient to life-saving medical care

Non-profit flies northern Michigan patient to life-saving medical care.
Non-profit flies northern Michigan patient to life-saving medical care.
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GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- Miles that matter. A non-profit group is flying northern Michigan patients to the life-saving treatments they need.

"Without them [treatments] I'll die," said Joanne Rackow. "I have a hole in my stomach that is leaking stomach fluid through my diaphragm into my lungs.”

Joanne has been driving to her medical treatments for the last several years.

“I was receiving medical care in Charlevoix and Petoskey, then they sent me to U of M in Traverse City to get services, and I ended up at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor because they have a plan,” she said.

While medical care is often covered by insurance, transportation to get there isn't.

“It cost money to drive down to Ann Arbor and spend the night.”

This time, Joanne was able to put the transportation hassles aside, and fly with Wings of Mercy.

“So, instead of spending five or six hours in the car we can get them there in an hour,” said Steve Melvin.

Melvin is one of several volunteer pilots who donates their time to fly families in need.

“A lot of these patients have very complex diagnoses and they need to be at a big center like the Cleveland clinic, Mayo, Devos, or U of M."

Melvin understands the toll traveling can take on a family, after having to drive his son to and from Grand Rapids for medical treatment at Devos Children's Hospital.

"Long days, snowstorms, going back-and-forth, I know what it means to have quick transportation, and other help and networking, when you’re having a tough time in your life.”

Wings of Mercy has provided more than 8 thousand missions since it was founded by Michigan native and pilot, Peter VandenBosch in 1991.

Now, with several different aircraft and volunteers, Wings of mercy can fly anywhere in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains.

“The people from the Upper Peninsula are very appreciative not having to cross the Mackinac Bridge in the middle of winter, or when the bridge is shut down for high wind warnings," said Melvin. "We can get up there and get into Marquette, or Houghton, and get them down to Ann Arbor in about an hour and 45 minutes."

Wings of Mercy is an organized nonprofit entirely funded by charitable contributions, including donations and community events that raise money.

Their next event in northern Michigan is the first ever TVC5K Run the Runway at Cherry Capital Airport.

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All proceeds will benefit Wings of Mercy and Goodwill Northern Michigan.

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