MISSOULA – A little girl who is battling a rare disease isn’t on her journey alone. Along with her family, she’s fighting this medical battle with her own angels at her side.
And the pilots of the Angel Flight Network are ready to fly high at a moment’s notice.
Her name is Kanynn and she’s almost five years old. She likes chicken nuggets, ice cream and her dogs. It’s impossible to tell she is a sick little girl.
“She sees 22 different specialists at Seattle Children’s hospital," said Kanynn’s mother Jamie Vanisko. "We’ve been 74 times and any trauma she experiences, she doesn’t recover.”
She has a condition that’s left a gap in her skull, but doctors can’t fix it because her little body can’t handle the stress of anesthesia. It’s complicated because Kanynn also has tumors throughout her body.
“Nobody has a reason for it. We’ve seen several different doctors," Vanisko said. "They call it Kanynn’s Syndrome because nobody has an answer.”
But as they wait for a miracle on the ground, they already have angles in the air. The Angle Flight Network uses volunteer pilots to fly the sick to their medical appointments out of state, free of charge.
Michael Burks is a pilot and learned about Angle Flight from an ad he saw on Facebook.
"l love flying and I love helping," Burks said. "It’s always been a passion of mine. I want to be used. I want to be able to use all the blessings that I have to help other people."
The network is a lifesaver for this single mom, as getting from her hometown of Butte to Seattle so often incurs major costs.
“I was never one to ask for help. Ever," Vanisko said. "We did a lot of trips before I found out about it. It’s a great program and one that I didn’t know about until all this happened."
Burks was just recognized as the Angle Flight West Pilot of the year for flying 23 missions last year. He’s encouraging other pilots to step up because they get to fly more often and really help those who need it.
“There’s pilots all over the state that probably don’t even know about this as well. So hopefully this gets out to, not only patients, but pilots so that we can just keep increasing the amount of flights,” Burks said.
The pilots and their patients form a bond up in the air. Up there it’s easy to forget your problems and view the world from a different perspective. It’s a bright moment for a mom just trying to save her daughter.
"For now, I’ve decided to just let her be a kid. There have been many trips where we thought she wouldn’t come home, but then she did. We just don’t know."
Angel Flight West is the branch of the organization that serves the Montana region. You can click here for more information on how to volunteer or if you need their services.