Rudolfo (“Rudy”) Moreno has the kind of warm demeanor that makes him a natural in the service industry. He has spent most of his adult life working for airlines, hotels, and restaurants, and has seen many sides of these operations, from reservations, gate, and ramp agent to flight attendant to hotel front desk receptionist.
[Pictured above: Rudy Moreno and Kelly King. This was Kelly’s first flight as an AFSC volunteer pilot and Rudy’s last as a passenger.]
When Rudy learned in July 2018 that he had stage-four Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), little did he know that along with the difficult treatments, he would also see the world of hospitality from the other side – someone would care for him for a change. Not long after his diagnosis, he learned about Angel Flight South Central from a friend who works in a small airport, and the clouds took on a silver lining.
Rudy lives in Marshall, Texas, about 150 miles east of Dallas and near the Louisiana border. He first learned he had cancer when he visited the doctor for stomach issues. First his doctors found an ulcer, and then behind that discovered a foot-long mass that turned out to be cancerous. Treatment for his cancer would require that he travel to a Dallas hospital regularly, each time staying for five days’ worth of 24-hour chemotherapy. He did his last round of chemo in December and a week ago did a stem cell collection as his last procedure.
A few months into his treatment, Rudy’s friend Tina told him Angel Flight, and Rudy knew he needed to give it a try. “Having to travel from East Texas to Dallas for week-long treatments, was becoming an added stressful task on top of just having to go through the treatments themselves,” he says. Each time he has flown, he says the staff and pilots at AFSC ease his mind. “Not only would the pilots fly me to my treatments, but they also listened and encouraged me. I can't tell you how many times I talked with Chris and Shireen [AFSC’s mission coordinators] over the phone and feel better because they were so willing to help me out. On a few occasions I had to rearrange my flights last minute they would always do their best to accommodate me.”
[Pictured above: Rudy with his friend Tina, who works for a regional airport and first told Rudy about Angel Flight South Central.]
Despite having worked for several different airlines, Rudy had never flown in a small aircraft, and he admits he was nervous before the first flight. But he found that the experience was both exhilarating and heart-warming. Although the prospect of going to treatment always made him anxious, he found that he would also get excited about going on an Angel Flight. When he learned that the pilots are volunteers who also cover all the flight costs, he was floored. “I was stunned at the kindness of these pilots,” he says. “Every one of them I met was caring and very encouraging.”
The pilot who flew Rudy to Dallas just before Thanksgiving, Bobby Varner, came back to the hospital to bring him a home-cooked meal. Rudy says this was a real blessing since he had to spend the holiday without his family.
[Pictured above: Rudy (center) with his sister and volunteer pilot Bobby Varner (far left).]
AFSC pilots have been just as encouraged by their time with Rudy. He was Kelly King’s very first passenger. “Rudy is a delightful person and a very enthusiastic flyer,” says Kelly. “He loves life and is grateful for his association with Angel Flight and their personnel.”
Fellow AFSC pilot J.D. Young agrees that flights with Rudy are always rewarding: “The fun begins at the Marshall FBO [regional airport]. Everyone knows Rudy, and he is family to all of the support staff there. Rudy takes an interest in all aspects of the flight. My equipment is a Cessna 206, so views of the ground are unobstructed, and his camera is in constant use. I think he enjoys listening in on ATC [air traffic control] as we approach the busy DFW airspace…. It has been a privilege to be a tiny part of his medical journey.”
[Pictured above: Rudy with volunteer pilot J.D. Young.]
Now that Rudy has completed his treatments, he is thinking about learning to fly himself. During their flight together, Kelly shared with Rudy how he might get started with the Civil Air Patrol and classes. For now, he is delighted to be looking forward to the future and that he was well cared for during his difficult treatment. “Kudos to everyone involved in this amazing organization,” he says. “I am so grateful to them for being a very positive part of my intense and overwhelming journey. God bless!”