Cheryl Dawson’s enthusiasm is effortless and sincere. This is notable for a woman discussing the severe health crisis that in 2012 earned her a long-term bed at Feather River Hospital. Cheryl was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition that was effectively killing her liver. After decades of good health, she was in uncharted territory. Cheryl says, “I’m a naturalist, and I’ve always taken care of myself. When the doctor said I was going to need a liver transplant, I told him he was out of his mind!” But Cheryl got sicker and sicker.
For transplant patients, the pre-qualification process is arduous. “You have to pretty much be dying to actually get a transplant organ,” Cheryl states. So she waited, kept afloat by supportive family and friends, excellent doctors and her own positive outlook.
January 4th turned out to be an auspicious day, including an unexpected surprise. “Just talking about it gives me all kinds of energy!” she says. “It was one of the peak experiences of my life, and so much of that was because of the REACH crew.” One of the hospital staff asked if she would be afraid to ride in a helicopter. Cheryl remembers being puzzled. “I said ‘No,’ but I really didn’t get what was happening.”
When the doctor said I was going to need a liver transplant, I told him he was out of his mind.
Cheryl Dawson, Survivor
Then it happened. “I’ll never forget. You know in hospitals you never have any privacy, especially in the ICU, where there are constantly people in and out of your room. Well, in walk these people dressed like they are from Star Trek. Beautiful people! I connected with them right away. I was like ‘Really?!? Beam me up!’” These people were Cheryl’s REACH flight crew.
“They immediately took control in the most efficient, non-threatening way possible,” Cheryl remembers. “They made me completely aware of what was going to happen, and at the same time, they were doing all these nursing duties.” REACH flew Cheryl to California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. “That was one of the top thrills of my life!” she exclaims. “The crew made the ride fun, and it was an absolutely gorgeous day.”