For many in the East Kootenay, getting the medical care they need can be a daunting task, with many having to travel long distances on dangerous roads to seek treatment.
That’s where Angel Flights steps in.
Founded in April 2019 by retired airline captain Brent Bidson, Angel Flights East Kootenay is a volunteer run charity which provides free air transportation to residents of the East Kootenays for medical appointments in Kelowna.
“I think it’s becoming almost an essential service to have in the East Kootenays,” said Rick Jarrett, a crew member who volunteers with Angel Flights.
“It’s difficult in particular for senior patients or younger residents that need to travel with their parents. These roads, in winter in particular, are not always the easiest to travel.”
Requesting transportation is an easy process, with two different ways to get access to transportation, according to Jarrett.
Patients can either request a flight online through the website, or through their doctor, who should be knowledgeable about the service.
Jarrett recommends going through a doctor, as those who are hoping to take an Angel Flight are required to provide a medical certificate from their doctor stating that they are capable of being on a flight.
While Jarrett now works with Angel Flights, his first experience with the organization came from his own experience travelling to Kelowna to receive medical treatment this past fall after he was diagnosed with cancer.
“I didn’t really have to do anything,” said Jarrett. “It just took a total load off of me without having to worry about getting to Kelowna. When you’ve had bad news like that you’re not necessarily as focused as you normally would be and it was just a great help to have that service.”
Angel Flights services Cranbrook, Creston, Golden, Invermere, Nelson and Sparwood.
For those looking to fly out of Golden, there’s still a bit of transportation involved. Patients have to travel to Cranbrook to receive service, which can still be quite the trek.
According to Jarrett, they’re looking into ways to make that part of the trip easier.
“We would be happy to partner with anyone who wants to provide a driving service to help get patients to and from Cranbrook,” said Jarrett. “We also have some interest in flying either directly out of Golden or Fairmont to service the north, but we don’t expect that aircraft to be ready for another few months.”
With a small core of volunteers, Angel Flights is still looking to grow and expand.
They’re looking to find more volunteers and community partners to help financially or by spreading the word about the program to keep people informed.