Jeremy Maze, who has captured the heart of the Dyer County community with his positive attitude and courageous spirit in his fight against cancer, met Pilots for Patients volunteer pilot David Powell at the airport on Wednesday, Jan. 23 for an 8 a.m. departure. The flight was headed to Houston, Texas.
Maze graduated from Dyersburg High School in 2010. After earning a walk-on tryout with the football team at Austin Peay University, he was offered a full scholarship and a chance to become a redshirt player. In his sophomore year, just as his team prepared for the upcoming football season, Maze learned he faced another -- more serious -- opponent.
In autumn of 2011, Maze was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer, a disease where malignant cancer cells form in the tissue of the upper part of the throat behind the nose.
Maze bravely moved forward with an aggressive approach to fight the disease. On Wednesday, Maze and his mother, Crystal Maze, boarded a Pilots for Patients flight to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for the next step in his treatment.
The Pilots for Patients program filed its charter in Louisiana in December 2007. The organization celebrated its fifth anniversary -- and 1,560th mission -- on Jan. 14. Flights have been available for residents of the Dyer County community since operations began in January 2008.
Its mission is to assist those in need of air transportation for medical purposes and to eliminate the burden of travel and allow the patient to concentrate on getting better.
Through an all-volunteer program, the entire trip is offered free of charge. Pilots participating in the Pilots for Patients program donate the time, aircraft, flight hours and fuel to help patients in their time of need. Once at their destination, patients and their caregivers are met by Ground Angels, who transport them from the airport to the medical center and back to the airport.
Maze was met at the Dyersburg airport by his close friends Randy Newsome and Amy Holden. Dyer County Mayor Richard Hill and his wife, Hester, also showed up to provide support for both Maze and the Pilots for Patients program.
"I think I have a daughter alive today because of this wonderful organization," said Hester Hill, who helped Pilots for Patients President Philip Thomas create the 501(c)(3) organization to better serve the region five years ago. "People in this area need to know this service is available to them. It has been a real lifesaver for us. You never think about these things until you need it. Then it becomes personal."
The Hills first met Thomas through the Angel Flight organization. Their daughter, Penny Cutler, has the distinction of being the first Angel Flight patient flown out of Dyer County 14 years ago.
Pilots for Patients works closely with hospitals in the Children's Miracle Network, as well as St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, M.D. Anderson and Arkansas Children's Hospital. Flights have also been made to the Mayo Clinic and medical centers in St. Louis and Louisiana.
Those interested in more information concerning the Pilots for Patients organization, including patients in need of transportation, pilots who wish to volunteer or residents who wish to donate may contact Hester Hill at 286-4088 or 676-2796; Philip Thomas at (318) 322-5112 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.pilotsforpatients.org.