July 24, 2014

Quick action on the part of the aviation and legal communities recently helped a critically ill 3-year-old boy return home to Columbia, SC from the Republic of Cyprus, where his family had been living for several years.

Gabriel Fleming, whose parents provide humanitarian aid to North Africa and the Middle East, was diagnosed in June with anaplastic large cell lymphoma after being taken to a local hospital with a golf-ball size lump on his leg. Although he responded well to initial chemotherapy treatments, the family needed to return to the U.S. for him to receive advanced medical treatment.

Word of the Fleming’s need for help – both for transportation home as well as financial assistance – spread rapidly through the aviation and legal communities in the Southeast U.S, as flight instructor, former airline pilot and attorney Everett McMillian, of the Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough law firm in Columbia, as well as others, searched for a general aviation flight to take Fleming and his family back to the U.S.

“The doctors initially ruled out a commercial flight because of how sick Gabriel was,” said McMillian. “Knowing the broad scope of resources that NBAA, AOPA and other aviation interests have, we reached out to them and immediately received a windfall of responses.”

NBAA Southeast Regional Representative Greg Voos posted information about the Fleming’s needs on NBAA’s Air Mail social network. According to McMillian, many NBAA Members from across the country contacted him with offers of air transportation, as well as financial assistance. The South Carolina Aviation Association and Georgia Airports Association also used their networks to spread the word.

Ultimately, Fleming was cleared to fly back to the U.S. on commercial flights under the supervision of Doug Hess of GlobalMed Services, and is receiving treatments at the Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital in Columbia. The Fleming family is hopeful for his full recovery.

“It was humbling to receive such an outpouring of assistance from NBAA and aviation networks in the Southeast and across the country,” said McMillian. “In less than two weeks, the aviation community helped answer many prayers for Gabriel and his family in their time of need.”