Tuesday, February 07, 2012

La Grande man with serious eye issue benefits from free Angel Flight

Joe and Rosemary Pelissier of Angel Flight West talk with Bob Jurgensen, right, of La Grande Friday morning at the Union County Airport. Jurgensen had just returned to La Grande after receiving a round trip to the Hillsboro Airport from Angel Flight West. Jurgensen had to go to the Portland area to see a doctor at the Devers Eye Institute. Joe Pelissier is a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight West and his wife Rosemary is the Oregon Wing Leader for the program. 
DICK MASON / The Observer

Bob Jurgensen of La Grande was touched by the angelic spirit of Joe and Rosemary Pelissier of Hillsboro and the Oregon Lions late last week.

Jurgensen, recovering from surgery to repair a detached retina, was experiencing complications and needed to see a doctor in Portland at the Devers Eye Institute. He was in no condition to drive a long distance, could not afford a taxi and did not have any family or friends who were able to drive him to Portland.

Jurgensen did not know what he was going do. Enter Angel Flight West, a program in which pilots provide free non-emergency flights to people with compelling needs such as health conditions.

Jurgensen found that he qualified for a round trip Angel Flight from La Grande to the Portland area.

Pilot Joe Pelissier provided Jurgensen with his “flight of hope,” picking him up Thursday morning at the Union County Airport in his Piper Malibu Mirage. Jurgensen was flown to the Hillsboro Airport, where he was met by Oregon Lions members with their organization’s new Earth Angels program. The volunteers drove Jurgensen to Devers Eye Institute for his appointment.

A volunteer waited for him at Devers Eye Institute until his appointment was over and then drove Jurgensen to the home of family members in Hillsboro, where he spent Thursday night. On Friday morning, a Lion drove Jurgensen to the Hillsboro Airport.

Jurgensen was back in La Grande at 10 a.m. Friday without having spent any money for travel and having experienced limited travel stress.

“It was amazing. I am so thankful,’’ Jurgensen said.

Jurgensen is one of about 160 people who are provided with Angel Flights in Oregon each year, trips being made much easier by the Earth Angels program, which started in Oregon in 2009.

Oregon Lions members meet all Angel Flight passengers and provide free transportation to hospitals, clinics or other sites and later drive them back to the airport. This service is greatly easing travel stress and complications.

“Before the pilot would often have to provide a ride. A lot of times they (the Angel Flight passenger) could not afford a taxi,’’ said Carol Tate, a member of the La Grande Lions Club.

Tate and her husband, Gary, who live in North Powder, are the directors of the Lions’ Earth Angels program in Eastern Oregon. The Tates arranged for Jurgensen to be provided with ground transportation in the Portland area late last week.

Jurgensen is the first person from La Grande to receive an Angel Flight since at least 2009. He is about the 80th Angel Flight passenger pilot Joe Pelissier has had since he joined the program in 2004. He has used his own plane and paid for the expenses for each flight. He speaks humbly of his volunteer efforts.

“I love flying and am always looking for an excuse to fly,’’ Pelissier said Friday morning at the Union County Airport.

A professional pilot, Pelissier views his volunteer efforts as a means of giving back.

“I’ve been very fortunate and want to share my blessings.’’

Pelissier is almost always accompanied on his Angel Flights by his wife Rosemary, the Oregon Wing Leader for Angel Flight West.

Rosemary Pelissier helps lead Angel Flight West in Oregon, which provides about 160 air trips in the state each year.

Knowing how much the flights are helping people make working as a volunteer leader for Angel Flight West a fulfilling experience.

“They (the flights) take such a big burden off passengers,’’ Rosemary Pelissier said.

The majority of the flights are provided for people with health problems, including those who need to get to a hospital for cancer treatments. Flights are also provided to those with other compelling issues, including children who have special needs.

To be eligible for a flight, one must have financial need and be able to walk into a plane and sit up in it throughout the trip. No medical services are provided.

“We (Angel Flight pilots) are not doctors and do not have medical training,’’ Joe Pelissier said.

Pelissier is one of 65 Angel Flight pilots in Oregon. More pilots are needed, especially in Eastern and Central Oregon, said Rosemary Pelissier.

All told, Angel Flight West has 1,600 pilots in 14 western states. Angel Flight West is part of a national Angel Flight organization.

For additional information on Angel Flight West, call 1-888-426-2643.

Source:  http://www.lagrandeobserver.com

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