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Volunteer Pilots Fly Veteran & Daughter for Kidney Transplant

07-01-2020 11:46 AM CET | Health & Medicine

Press release from: LifeLine Pilots

Kidney donor Kelly, before take-off with her brother and their pilot

Kidney donor Kelly, before take-off with her brother and their pilot

When father and daughter needed to travel more than 800 miles for a kidney transplant, they contacted LifeLine Pilots to make the trip possible.

George Campbell, a Vietnam Veteran, learned that he had been approved to receive his daughter’s kidney in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The joy was soon overcome with concern of how they would make the trip from Minnesota to the Pittsburgh VA Medical Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the transplant was to take place.

“The surgical team encouraged us to fly private due to the extreme dangers that exposure to COVID posed to my daughter and I pre- and post-op,” says Campbell.

But as a newly retired couple on a limited income, the cost of a private flight was too much for the family. That is when they contacted LifeLine Pilots. The Illinois-based non-profit provides free medical flights for people in need.

“I reached out to them with questions and within days they had a plan for getting my sister and I, and my mom and dad, from Minnesota to Pittsburgh for the transplant,” says Gregg Campbell, George’s son. “The entire experience was nothing short of amazing. We are forever indebted to the pilots who volunteered their plane and time and energy. And to all the fine folks at LifeLine Pilots who helped make this happen.”

For almost 40 years, LifeLine Pilots has been facilitating free flights, covering 10 states in the Midwest. People with medical and humanitarian needs are flown at no cost to the passenger. This is possible because of generous donors and volunteer pilots who donate their time, aircraft and fuel.

“We have more than 400 volunteer pilots, who fly passengers throughout the Midwest”, says Lindsey Kerr, Executive Director of LifeLine Pilots. “These flights were a challenge for us, it took three flights for George and three for his daughter Kelly, to get them to Pittsburgh. But thankfully the weather cooperated and both father and daughter arrived safely at the VA hospital for the transplant.”

After their June 16 surgery, Kelly is now back home in Minnesota and George is expected to fly home on July 3, just in time to celebrate 4th of July with his family.

To limit exposure to COVID-19, all pilots and passengers are screened the day before their flight, using the CDC symptom/exposure checklist and everyone is asked to wear a mask while on the aircraft. Pilots also disinfect their plane between every flight. Pilots flying a general aviation aircraft generally use small, fixed-based operator airports. This reduces passenger exposure to other people, compared to airports used by commercial airlines.

“Even as the COVID-19 pandemic surrounds us, LifeLine Pilots remains open to help those in need,” says Kerr. “Traveling on a commercial airline has always posed a threat for people with compromised immune systems, but now the potential exposure has become much more serious and life-threatening. Our pilots and passengers take extra precautions to limit potential exposure of COVID-19, to give the passenger the safest journey possible.”

LifeLine Pilots
Byerly Aviation, Suite 302
6100 W. Dirksen Parkway
Peoria, IL 61607

Lindsey Kerr, Executive Director, 309-306-7853, lindsey@lifelinepilots.org

Since 1981, LifeLine Pilots (LLP) has provided no-cost air transportation for financially distressed passengers with medical and humanitarian needs. Over almost four decades, volunteer pilots have flown five million nautical miles and more than 8,000 missions with a 100% safety record. Missions are facilitated for babies through senior citizens. LifeLine Pilots’ has also participated in relief efforts for natural disasters by transporting volunteers and supplies to areas of need. Headquartered in Peoria, Illinois, LLP currently serves patients living in the following 10 states (and beyond): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin. The organization is a 501 (c)(3) charity that is privately funded by individuals, corporations and foundations.

Lindsey Kerr, Executive Director of LifeLine Pilots is available for interviews. Contact her at lindsey@lifelinepilots.org or 309-306-7853. Additional photos available upon request of passengers, pilots and the planes.

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