Life was a fragile thread for Eliana, and her doctors lacked the highly specialized training and experience needed to fix her defective heart.  Though her birth on January 7, 2009 was normal, two days later doctors discovered a heart murmur. A remote cardiogram revealed that her condition required urgent care, and she was airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Washington, DC from her home in Hagerstown, Maryland. There, she was diagnosed with a rare disorder, tetralogy of fallot, in which the pulmonary artery is defective; in Eliana’s case, the artery was closed off at the heart’s entrance.

A series of procedures at Johns Hopkins followed, but none was successful, and at one point, Eliana was put on life support. Her parents, Will and Astrid, felt “it was time to change course,” and contacted a world-famous cardiologist in England, Dr. Somerville. She recommended a pioneering pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at Stanford University, saying, “He’s the only one who understands anatomy enough to fix it.”

The surgeon was Dr. Frank Hanley, a professor and director of the Children’s Heart Center at Stanford who had performed over 600 surgeries to repair tetralogy of fallot. When Will contacted him, Dr. Hanley offered assurances that he could fix Eliana’s heart in one surgery and that she would be completely normal.

Once the appointment was set for January 20, the next challenge for the family was to find a way to California. Will and Astrid learned about Angel Airlines for Life through their church, made the call, and received free round-trip tickets. “We were out there for quite a while,” Will said. “Eliana had surgery on January 27. It lasted for 10 hours. Dr. Hanley is really nice—a humble person. He’s a once-in-a-hundred-years talent.”

Ten days after the operation, Will and Astrid sent an email to Angel Airlines reporting that “Eliana is crawling, kissing, smacking her tongue, playing, smiling and eating twice as much as before.”

On February 18, the family traveled home on a red-eye. “The flight was smooth, and Eliana didn’t cry during the flight. She slept most of the time,” her parents noted. The next day they wrote to say, “We feel so happy again. Especially when we saw a 99 percent oxygen level.”

Angel Airlines for Life is a lifeline for children as well as patients of all ages who otherwise would have no way to access specialized medical treatment.