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Gus Elsener Brings Out the Best in AFSC

Gus Elsener was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February, 2010.  After consulting with physicians in his home state of Kansas, he determined that his best hope for effective treatment lay in Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center over 700 miles to the south.  The prospect of making the 26 hour round trip by car once a week during his chemotherapy treatments seemed daunting!

Fortunately, Gus heard about Angel Flight South Central from a sister-in-law whose daughter’s boyfriend’s father is an AFSC pilot!  How’s that for the definition of “small world?”  Interestingly, though, many Angel Flight South Central passengers are referred by pilots or other patients.  With this new possibility for easing the transportation burden, Gus called his social worker at MD Anderson who initiated the process to begin coordinating flights with Angel Flight.

The only experience Gus had with small aircraft was a single flight he and his wife had taken back during Gus’ college days at Ohio State.  Remembering that flight, Gus was a bit concerned about his claustrophobia.  All his fears were alleviated, however, on his first Angel Flight South Central flight when he discovered that his AFSC pilot was an American Airlines captain with 33 years of transcontinental flight experience.  Today, with over 200 Angel Flights under his belt, Gus enjoys flying as do his wife and daughter.

Gus remarks that Angel Flight pilots really go out of their way to make sure their passengers are safe and comfortable.  He says, “All the pilots are wonderful and come from all walks of life.  Some are salesmen . . . some are doctors . . . the one thing they all have in common is their love of flying and their desire to help others.”  Impressed by the fact that the pilots always call before their flight to introduce themselves and communicate any concerns about weather or other factors that might affect a flight, Gus knows that on the rare occasions when one of his flights has been cancelled it was because the pilot had Gus’ best interest and safety at heart.  Since AFSC policy requires patients to always have a backup plan (in Gus’ case he kept a Southwest Airlines ticket handy), he never missed an appointment.

Recently, Gus’ condition has improved and he has been able to transition into a new treatment offered close to home, so he hasn’t had to use Angel Flight South Central as often.  He has received calls from a couple of pilots who regularly flew him to Houston asking about his condition since they hadn’t seen any mission requests for him in a while.  It’s clear that Angel Flight pilots truly care about the people they fly!

It isn’t just the pilots who have impacted Gus’ life.  The volunteer drivers of the Angel Flight Ground Crew which provided transportation for Gus from the airport to the treatment center in Houston are high on his list, too.  “The ground transportation coordinated by Angel Flight South Central and provided by volunteer drivers is such a nice service.  Someone was at the airport to pick us up no matter which airport in Houston our pilot chose.”

We’re very pleased to say that Gus is doing well with his new treatment procedure in Kansas, and has been able to return part-time to his lifelong career as a pharmacist.  He even has the time and energy for an occasional round of golf.  Gus continues to travel to MD Anderson for regular follow up visits and Angel Flight South Central is proud to be able to help him with transportation.


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