Angel Flight transports retired injured nurse

Walt Dahnke gives his wife, Esther, a retired registered nurse, one more kiss before she jets away on Angel Flight for Richmond, Va. ~ Photo courtesy of Sarah Cole, Huntsville Times

Walt Dahnke gives his wife, Esther, a retired registered nurse, one more kiss before she jets away on Angel Flight for Richmond, Va. ~ Photo courtesy of Sarah Cole, Huntsville Times

Some of the best-laid plans can go south unexpectedly, which is what happened in Esther Dahnke’s case. But, the mishap that changed the course of plans provided an opportunity for a trip with Angel Flight.

A retired registered nurse, of 49 years – 17 of those as a surgical nurse at Huntsville Hospital – Esther, now 74, had planned to drive to Richmond, Va., to care for her adopted daughter and baby as Dawn recuperated from giving birth by C-section on March 6.  Esther and her husband, Walt, adopted Dawn from Korea 40 years ago.

In addition to caring for Dawn and the new baby, Esther would also take over kitchen duties and prepare meals for Dawn’s three other children.

On March 3, after Esther had made her travel plans, she slipped on an icy ramp at home and fractured her right ankle. Driving to Virginia was no longer an option. The doctor said it would take eight weeks to mend.

“She is ambulatory, but is in a walking boot,” said Walt.

Since he knew Esther wouldn’t be deterred from her caring mission, Walt came up with a creative solution.

“I contacted Angel Flight in Atlanta and they agreed to transport Esther with a private plane,” Walt explained.

Angel Flight Soars is a non-profit organization based in DeKalb Peachtree Airport in Atlanta, Ga. It has flown nearly 25,000 missions since 1983. The missions include routine treatment flights, compassionate care and other medical-related flights.

This flight was assigned to pilot Mike Murdock and was scheduled to leave Monday, March 17 – a cold and dreary morning – from Madison County Executive Airport.   Walt and Esther met him at the airport.

Murdock walked the couple to the hangar and showed them the Cessna Citation Mustang jet Esther would fly in. It was a four-seater jet with a luxury cabin. Walt called the experience “enlightening and informative.”

Murdock told them about the jet, and as he walked backward out of the hanger, he remotely directed the jet to follow him.

“We had prayer before the flight. I had my hand on his shoulder and my arm around her,” Walt said. “I followed her (Esther) up the stairs to give her one last kiss.”

First, they flew to Nashville to pick up a co-pilot, Walt explained, and then flew on to Richmond.

“The flight went really well,” said Walt after talking to Esther. “From Nashville it took 1 hour and 15 minutes.”

“She sure is helping Dawn a lot.” Walt continued. “Dawn thanked me for letting her mom come.”

Walt began missing Esther within the first few days of her absence and is anxiously looking forward to the week she returns on Angel Flight.

Posted on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 7:08 am