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Air Methods flies terminally ill firefighter to son’s wedding

Jun 29, 2018

As she prepared to board a flight to attend her son’s wedding, Kris Weltons knew that she was witnessing a miracle.

 

The miracle was that she and her husband, Lieutenant Max Weltens, were able to attend at all. A highly regarded 24-year veteran of the San Antonio Fire Department (SAFD), Max Weltens is terminally ill with esophageal cancer and has less than three months to live. Because of his condition, flying 1,500 miles on a commercial airline from San Antonio to the wedding in Virginia was out of the question. His only option was to travel on a fixed-wing air medical transport, a service not covered by insurance.

 

When he learned about Welten’s situation, Andrew Estrada, battalion chief for the SAFD called Keith Eldard, firefighter with SAFD and flight paramedic for Air Methods, to determine the cost of a flight for his fellow firefighter. He told Eldard that he and other members of the SAFD union were trying to raise enough money to pay for the flight.

 

Eldard then reached out to Air Methods San Antonio AirLIFE business development manager, Trey Howard, who got in touch with Air Methods regional and corporate leadership. After hearing about Weltens’ plight, leadership knew there was only one thing they could do: they offered to donate the flight as a way to support the family.

 

With less than a week to make arrangements, plans for the transport were quickly put into place through a coordinated effort by clinical, aviation, risk management and the leadership of Air Methods.

 

On the morning of Friday, June 22, a fixed-wing asset from El Paso departed Kelly Air Field for Virginia, piloted by Mike “Cat” Catarineau. Weltens and Kris Weltens were accompanied on the flight by Eldard and Alicia Bricker, nurse and safety officer.

 

“While each transport holds special meaning, there are some that always stay with you,” said Howard. “Giving Max and his family the opportunity to make memories together is something none of us will ever forget. We are honored we could play a part in this important day. Thanks to each and every person who made this possible.”

 

Pictures of the wedding, held the next day, capture the joy that Weltens and his family must have felt at his being able to attend this special event. The next day, they made the trip home.

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