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PALS An Underutilized Resource For Nantucketers

(October 10, 2014) Nadine McGhie thought she was out of options.

The Nantucket mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts, and following chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, she needed to travel to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston frequently for radiation and other treatments. McGhie had quickly exhausted the $1,000 she had received from the Marla Lamb Cancer Travel Fund to make those trips up to Boston, and did not have the funds necessary to continue the back and forth excursions to Mass General.

That’s when Patient Airlift Services (PALS) stepped in. Working with volunteer pilots, the non-profit charity arranged flights for McGhie so she could make it to Boston for her cancer treatments at no cost. To date, McGhie has utilized the service more than a dozen times.

“I don’t know what I would have done without them,” said McGhie, 41. “They’re there for people who need help, and they’ve been so good to me. The pilot even picked me up at my houses and waited in Boston for me to return.”

That pilot, Nantucket resident Chris McLaughlin, is a volunteer pilot for PALS’ who has helped to establish the service on the island, making it available to Nantucketers in need.

The service is especially valuable to Nantucket patients like Nadine for whom the cost of regular off-island travel for cancer treatments or other medical needs is significant.

“When PALS first approached Nantucket Cottage Hospital just over two years ago I was immediately impressed by their professionalism and their obvious commitment,” said Peter Mackay, director of social services at Nantucket Cottage Hospital. “Having since referred several patients to them, they have done nothing less but to continue their high level of response and compassion. They even tried to work ‘out of their norm,’ if you will, to help me arrange transport for a patient when weather precluded normal transportation means. (Executive director) Eileen Minogue and her staff are wonderful and I hope they continue this valued, if still less than known, resource to all Nantucketers.”

PALS arranges medical flights and free air transportation for needy individuals throughout the Northeast region, from Virginia to Maine, Ohio to Massachusetts. PALS’ network of volunteer pilots provides these services, receiving no compensation, using their own or rented aircraft. No fees of any kind are charged for these flights. Generally, the individuals who turn to PALS for air transportation are receiving diagnosis, medical treatment or follow-up for acute or chronic health conditions and cannot afford commercial or charter flights.

“We believe that partnering with hospitals like Nantucket Cottage Hospital helps us all to serve more powerfully,” said Eileen Minogue, executive director of PALS. “It has proven to be a great relationship as we have been able to help individuals like Nadine and others access treatment off the island without the burden of worrying about how to get there.  It is a privilege to work alongside the staff at NCH to the benefit of those they serve.”

Patients can request a flight online, or by calling PALS at 631-694-PALS (7257) or e-mailing the organization at [email protected]