Leila Vernon, BC

Leila Ward is no stranger to flying on planes. She has needed to see a specialist in Vancouver four times a year since 1999, to treat her laryngospasm – which causes her larynx to clamp shut during breathing, cutting off her air supply.

“My condition is very specific and no doctor or hospital has the equipment to treat it in my hometown of Vernon, BC, or even in nearby Kelowna,” explains Leila. Her laryngospasm often makes it difficult for Leila to breathe, so it was essential for her to seek treatment in Vancouver.

“I have to travel to see the only doctor who can treat my condition, and it is a big financial burden,” says Leila. “I’m required to visit Vancouver for treatment only available with one ENT Specialist at the Pacific Voice Clinic.”

Leila paid for airfare out of pocket nine times until she heard about Hope Air, draining her retirement funds. Since then, though, Leila has been flown 13 times on free flights arranged by Hope Air. While she previously flew from Kelowna to Vancouver International, she began flying on smaller volunteer pilot flights from Vernon in 2014. “The smaller planes are great. I can fly right from Vernon, and I’m able to move from side to side of the plane to snap pictures of the Rockies, which puts my mind at ease.”

Leila paid for airfare out of pocket nine times until she heard about Hope Air, draining her retirement funds.

On a recent flight home, Leila’s plane, flown by long time Hope Air volunteer pilot Henry Ilg, experienced heavy cloud cover. Thankfully, Leila explains that air traffic controllers were with the plane every step of the way. “I felt like royalty, relaxing in the calm, knowing that those angels in the towers on land were guiding my small plane safely,” she says. “Despite the heavy cloud cover, the tower and pilot both knew exactly what to do.”

“The tower was very much involved and was attentive to the plane’s every move. I even heard a controller speak directly to my pilot using the Hope Air call sign!”

While Leila will require continued treatment, she knows that without Hope Air, she may not have a voice at all. “If it were not for Hope Air, my whole life would be different, much more difficult and perhaps unbearable. I am so grateful for the help I’ve been given.”