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Mission Central: December 2020

MISSION CENTRAL: DECEMBER 2020 The newsletter for friends of Angel Flight South Central

Social Worker is Humble and Helpful Angel Flight South Central would not exist without the patients we serve and the volunteer pilots who fly them. However, we could not fulfill our mission if it weren’t for another important group: the social workers and administrators who refer patients to us. These people serve a vital role in connecting people in need with our organization. Sofia serves as an Ambassador for Parent Outreach and Engagement for a school district in southern New Mexico. Her main job focuses on parent involvement activities at five schools while also supporting social workers from the entire 24-school region. She frequently goes above and beyond for the children and their families in her community by providing referrals and resources. She is often busy with food or clothing distribution and spent much of December handing out toys for Christmas.

[One of Sofia's recently organized missions for a patient flown by pilot Grant R.]

Residents in this part of New Mexico face many challenges when trying to access quality or specialized medical care that is not available locally. Many families do not have reliable transportation to travel long distances to Arizona or Texas. Sofia often works with large families who have small children. When one parent accompanies a child in need of care, arranging childcare for the other siblings while the other parent works can prove difficult.

One such example started Sofia’s connection to Angel Flight South Central 17 years ago when she encountered a mother who needed treatment for a stomach tumor in Albuquerque. With young children at home and inadequate transportation, it was impossible for the mother to receive the life-saving services. Sofia began knocking on doors throughout the community to find assistance, eventually landing at a Congressman’s office who told her about Angel Flight. After arranging the initial flight, Sofia’s dedication to helping the mother went even further. The patient had never flown before and was terrified. After two cancelled flights, Sofia arranged to accompany her on the third attempt. It was Sofia’s first time flying as well! She is still grateful for the pilot, “Mr. Dan”, for being their Angel all those years ago. Sofia was further amazed when the patient had to stay longer for treatment and another pilot offered to fly Sofia home rather than make her take the bus.

[Pilot Dan T. (middle) and Sofia (right) in 2013 at Dan's retirement from Angel Flight] “Just a miracle what the pilots do [and] Miss Shireen [and] Mr Chris. Everyone, it's just a miracle what they do. I know my community [and I] are just so grateful that the service is available to my families.“ Since then, Sofia has become one of Angel Flight’s greatest advocates in the social worker field. She knows that without Angel Flight her community would not have access to life-saving medical care. She recalls one particularly touching story of an infant who needed major surgery as he was losing his sight and the ability to walk. “At 1, his body would turn just to one side. Now at 11 years old, he walks and wears glasses and can see. It’s been life-changing what you all do.” Serving the community comes naturally to Sofia. She is humbled by the opportunity to help others and explains, “I’m helping because someone once helped me.” She spends time going over the necessary paperwork with families and relays messages from pilots and staff to arrange the critical transportation. “It is the biggest honor to be part of the organization. One of the greatest things. It is me who is humbled in helping reach all of these families. Without you all, I wouldn’t be able to reach so many families and get them to medical help. Those are the family’s wings.” Recently, she has been facilitating flights for a 9-year-old boy who was severely burned in a house fire. When she first met the child, he could not stretch his arms and fingers to full capacity. The family and Sofia were nervous about requesting a pilot for the long distance to Galveston, TX, and even the boy felt it was a miracle when the first missions were arranged. Sofia loves seeing the progress he has made. After nearly 15 months of treatment, he can fully extend his arms and wrists. She appreciates that pilots go above and beyond for children like him, providing snacks and making the flights as enjoyable as possible.