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Angel Flight Pilots Help Lighten Patients' Load

Photo: Chris Stover

Photo: Chris Stover

October 29, 2012

When medical problems hit a family, there's always so much time and money spent on the necessities. With hospital visits, medical costs and travel time to take into consideration, one organization with local volunteer pilots is helping to lighten the load.

High above in the Charlottesville skies, John Darcy and his wife Cindi are in the hands of an angel.

"Flying with Angel Flight just clears your head," John Darcy said.

"And they take such good care of the patient and the family member," Cindi Darcy said.

The Darcys are flying with local pilot Steve Sargeant from New Hampshire to Tennessee with a quick layover in Charlottesville.

John Darcy's story began in 2010, when he noticed he became winded after performing simple tasks. Darcy's doctor performed some tests, and the results were not positive.

Darcy was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. After three years of traveling to hospitals and clinics across the country, taking part in experimental treatments, Darcy is heading home to Knoxville one last time without a cure.

"Now there is no other option for him but to live comfortably to live life to its fullest," Cindi Darcy said.

The Darcys are doing that in part thanks to a volunteer organization called Angel Flight.

"The pilots, we donate our time and our resources and our aircraft to take people to medical appointments who, for financial reasons or medical reasons, would not be able to get there," said Steve Sargeant, a flight instructor with Charlottesville's Orion Flight Center.

Sargeant has been flying since 1986. For the last five years, he's helped patients like Darcy get where they need to go through Angel Flight.

"I think all of us need to give back, so I can take something I can do and give back with it," Sargeant said.

The Angel Flights are free for patients who need to get to and from certain hospitals or clinics, and it's a rewarding experience for everyone. Sargeant has gotten Fax Ayres, the owner of Orion Flight Center, involved as well.

Ayres has volunteered to take the Darcys back home to Knoxville.

"It's a great mission and a great organization," Ayres said. "It's very satisfying flying. And it's fun."

"The patients will tell you that they are the ones who get the most out of this. It's just the opposite," Sargeant said. "Probably one of the most rewarding things I do in my life besides hug my daughter is do this."

"They'd do anything for us, and I was quite taken aback by that," Cindi Darcy said.

After a brief rest in Charlottesville and lunch courtesy of the Timberwood Grill, the Darcys continued their journey home to Knoxville, where John and Cindi would prepare to live comfortably in the time they have together thanks to the angels in the sky.

"I do [consider myself an angel]," Sargeant said. "I'm lucky enough to take the powers that have been given to me and extend them. So yeah, if that's how you define an angel, I'd say I am."

For more information on the Angel Flight program and to find out how to volunteer, follow this link.

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