LifesavingHILO >> Kona resident Jeanine Brown's two children like to lie on her chest and listen to her heartbeat, she says.
flights take wing
Two Big Isle pilots are the
first on the island to offer their
services as part of AirLifeLine
By Rod Thompson
The children are going to have more time to do that thanks to Kona small-plane pilots David Radin and Barbara Clever.
Brown is a breast cancer patient who has to make frequent trips to Hilo, for chemotherapy now and for radiation therapy later.
Earlier this month, for the first time since Brown's surgery late last year, she got a free ride to Hilo in the morning and home in the afternoon in Radin and Clever's Piper Archer III.
It was the first time Radin and Clever had flown such a "compassion" flight.
And it was the first time that a national, nonprofit organization called AirLifeLine extended its wings to the Big Island. The organization has been operating on the mainland for 24 years. Last year, volunteer AirLifeLine pilots flew 9,500 passengers with various ailments to more than 450 destinations, saving their passengers $4 million in travel costs.
When Brown, 48, learned she had breast cancer in November, her doctor told her she had a choice: complete removal of the breast with less follow-up care, or removal of just the cancerous lump with more post-operative treatments.
Disabled and single, Brown had to think before choosing the lumpectomy, because more treatments would mean less time with her son Eric, 8, and daughter Kailee, 3.
In fact, trips from Kona to Hilo for chemotherapy meant a long-distance taxi ride to Waimea, followed by a car trip with an American Cancer Society volunteer the rest of the way.
A plane ride over Kona lava fields, Parker Ranch pastures and Hamakua Cost forest would be a step up in comfort.
"Friends told me this plane is really nice," Brown said the day before her flight. "It might be one of the happiest moments of my life."
Meanwhile, California cedar products company owner Radin was "telecommuting" to work from his home in South Kohala. He and housewife Clever, happily married to separate spouses, had co-owned planes for several years as a way of economizing.
Radin had heard about AirLifeLine through a Federal Aviation Administration program.
"We are pilots and tend to fly anyway," he said. "We might as well do something useful with the time."
Each round-trip flight to Hilo will cost Radin and Clever $140. Brown is going to need about 45 treatments.
"We'll do as much as we possibly can," Radin said.
Although there are five other AirLifeLine pilots in Hawaii, Radin and Clever are the only ones on the Big Island.
Ginger Buxa, director of outreach for the program, says she would be happy to have more volunteer pilots, and the organization accepts donations, which are tax-deductible. Buxa can be reached toll-free at 1-877-727-7728.
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