Owen: From Storms to Sunshine

Laryngeal Cleft: Scary Scenario

Imagine choking or gagging every single time you drank. You’d need first aid at the table, along with hospital visits to treat complications from liquid going into your lungs. This was the reality for Owen. Owen was still an infant when doctors found out he had a rare condition: laryngeal cleft. Instead of having a “wall” between the esophagus and windpipe, there was a hole. “He choked whenever he drank liquids,” said Owen’s parents, Brian and Nikki.

Brian and Nikki knew that Owen’s condition would only get worse over time. He needed specialized surgery to fix the laryngeal cleft. Otherwise, he would have to undergo other surgeries, even have tubes put in to prevent aspiration. Without surgery, he would have kept getting sick from liquids entering his lungs.

Distance and Cost

The hospital that could best treat Owen was Boston Children’s Hospital, but the family lives in Indiana. A commercial flight to cover such a long distance would have cost around $4,000 – not a feasible option when his parents had two children and a third on the way. Owen also needed medical accommodations, which the airlines could not provide. Even if the family was able to bring what they needed, it would lead to further problems in the security line.

Pilot to the Rescue

That’s when Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic came in to help. It was the family’s first trip with Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic, and they were lucky to get paired with Frank Perfetti. Frank has won Virginia Pilot of the Year in 2016. But he doesn’t do it for the accolades. He often flies veterans to medical care, and has a soft spot for children and families. “Being a volunteer pilot allows you to help people out,” said Frank, “while doing what you love.”

Owen’s flight was a triple leg mission – three flights in a row. Despite the distance and time associated with such a long mission, Frank stayed in good spirits. Thanks to a helpful volunteer pilot for Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic, Owen is alive and doing much better.

“Give People Our Scenario”

Now, Owen is three years old. Brian and Nikki are “forever grateful” to Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic for flying Owen back and forth to Boston Children’s Hospital three times. The surgeries are successfully treating the laryngeal cleft. “Our son is on the road to a normal, healthy life because of Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic!”

Brian and Nikki also had a message to donors, saying to “give people our scenario.” It’s a scenario that Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic made brighter. Every day, volunteer pilots lift children like Owen above the storms of illness and into the sunshine of hope.

laryngeal cleft child patient with family
Owen and his family are all set to fly!


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