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A 44-year-old woman diagnosed with cervical cancer found an “angel” recently when she needed transportation from Stillwater, Okla., where she spent the Thanksgiving holidays with her family, to Houston, where she is undergoing treatment. Solo practitioner Mike Stocker, a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight, a nonprofit organization that provides patients free transportation to medical facilities, flew his six-seater, twin-engine Beechcraft Baron to Stillwater to pick up the woman and her 17-year-old son and transported them to Houston. The 53-year-old Houston family law attorney said the missions he flies for Angel Flight are something he does for himself. “It keeps me in touch with my mortality,” Stocker said. Stocker said he is a cancer survivor who was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1988. “They told me I was terminally ill and would not live five years,” he said. “I beat it, and I started thinking about ways to give back to people who have gone through the same thing I did.” After reading an article about Angel Flight, Stocker decided to put his skills as a pilot to use. That was almost a decade ago, and Stocker continues to fly 10 to 12 Angel Flight missions a year. The trip to Stillwater, accompanied by members of the cancer support group at his church, Fellowship of The Woodlands, was Stocker’s most recent mission. A ‘GOOD REASON TO FLY’ Stocker is one of numerous lawyers around the state who have found a way to use their love for flying to help people who might otherwise find it difficult to get the treatments they need. Beth Stone, director of mission coordination for the Addison, Texas-based Angel Flight South Central, said the network of approximately 900 private pilots — about 550 of them from Texas — provide free transportation to patients in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and western Tennessee. Pilots with the network flew about 2,200 missions in 2003, Stone said. “It’s an opportunity to help some people out who need transportation, and it’s a good reason to go flying,” said Andy Taylor, a partner in the Austin, Texas, office of Houston-based Bracewell & Patterson. “It’s a win-win proposition.” Judge Pat Boone of Texas’ 57th District Court in San Antonio started flying Angel Flight missions in 1997, a year after he left the Texas Air National Guard. Boone, who began flying when he was 15, said he has flown two dozen to three dozen missions for Angel Flight. While in the military, he flew missions in F-4s and F-16s, but he now transports Angel Flight patients in his Cessna T-210, Boone said. “I have transported many patients who have not been on an airplane before,” Boone said. “A lot of these people don’t have the bus fare to get where they want to go.” One of the patients Boone remembers the best is a Russellville, Ark., girl he began flying to San Antonio when she was only 3 years old. Boone said the girl, who has adolescent spinal bifida, had a device implanted in her body that enabled a doctor to expand her rib cage to accommodate her growing organs. “I still hear from this little girl’s family on a regular basis,” Boone said. Taylor, whose practice focuses on commercial litigation and energy regulatory work, said some of the people who seek assistance from Angel Flight can’t afford commercial flights, while others live in towns where there is no commercial flight service. Taylor recalled transporting a woman from Hondo, Texas, to Houston, where she was to receive treatments at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. “She could have driven to San Antonio to catch a flight, but that’s such a hassle for someone who doesn’t feel good,” Taylor said. Taylor said that he has flown about eight Angel Flight missions, transporting patients in his six-seat, single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza.

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