“Nellie” provides fixed-wing air ambulance transport for patients in the Midwest who require medical monitoring throughout the flight.
When a medical crisis strikes, a patient may be hundreds of miles away from home—or from the care he needs. Many patients are too ill for ground transport and can’t afford the high cost of commercial air ambulances; but for some who have been turned away from other options, an Indiana charity organization brings hope.
Grace on Wings, a nonprofit service based in Indianapolis, provides fixed-wing air ambulance transport for patients in the Midwest who require medical monitoring throughout the flight. The service has flown 36 missions, amounting to more than 38,000 miles, since it began transporting patients in November 2007.
Hal Blank, CEO and chief pilot of Grace on Wings, said the organization is the only charity air ambulance service in the United States that is licensed as an air ambulance provider. Two licensed medical providers care for each patient throughout the flight, allowing Grace on Wings to serve people who might be turned down by other organizations, Blank said. Many insurance companies will not pay for non-emergency ambulance services, leaving people with chronic conditions without a means of transport.
“Nobody wanted to touch these patients because they’re high risk and they don’t have a way to pay for it,” he said. Grace on Wings tries to serve people who are non-ambulatory and require medical monitoring, and whose trips are within 1,000 miles of Indianapolis.
The need for this type of transportation is such that the charity receives about eight calls a day from people around the country looking for assistance, Blank added. Grace on Wings cannot serve everyone who calls, he said, but for those it can it provides full service, including a ground ambulance that takes the patients to the airplane, a Mitsubishi MU-2.
“We pick you up, and we tuck you in at the next place,” Blank said.
The all-volunteer organization receives help from about eight churches, and participants view faith as a key component of the missions. Volunteers pray over patients and give them each a copy of the Bible.