NORTH BEND — Army veteran Ken Booth and his wife, Ruth, had their world turned upside down as the two received some unexpected news late last year.
“I had just turned 85 and I was feeling great,” said Ken. “All of a sudden, I’m in the hospital and they’re telling me that my lung collapsed and I have cancer.”
Ruth and Ken Booth sit in the living room of their Coos Bay home. The two flew out Sunday to Portland through the Angel Flight West program.
After taking a fall in their home in November, Ken was transported to the North Bend VA Clinic and later the Portland VA Medical Center where physicians diagnosed the Coos Bay resident with stage four mesothelioma cancer.
“Initially, the VA told me I had to get a biopsy done, which was in Portland, but the problem is I don’t drive,” said Ken. “They told me, ‘Oh, well you can take Angel Wings.’”
It was then that Ken embarked on his first trip with Angel Flight West. The nonprofit organization coordinates free air travel for people with serious medical conditions through its network of volunteer pilots. Using their own personal aircraft, the pilots donate their time and fuel to help make these trips possible.
“It was a godsend,” said Ruth. “We really could not afford a trip to Portland and Ken can’t drive because he’s too weak.”
On Sunday, Ruth joined her husband for his second trip to Portland with AFW. The two departed from the Southwestern Oregon Regional Airport for a follow up visit to determine their next course of action in Ken’s treatment.
In between trips, Ken consulted with his physician remotely through once-a-week Telehealth visits at the North Bend VA Clinic. The live interactive video conferencing program allows physicians to treat patients through its on-site nurses following step-by-step instructions.
While hospital visits have been frequent, Ken is no stranger to overcoming challenges and fighting when needed. At 19-years-old, he was drafted into the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Division where he spent his time based out of Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Washington.
“I knew we had angels walking next to us all the time,” Ken said. “We really appreciate the work they do and both the VA and (AFW) have been wonderful.”