Kelsey Hanley, 14, holds roses after her eighth-grade graduation ceremonies last June. (PHOTO COURTESY OF TERRI TEICHROEB)

Kelsey Hanley’s wish came true last week when she flew to Kansas to meet her great-grandmother.

Though Kelsey and her family were scheduled to return to Oregon on Monday, medical issues complicated her return.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation flew the Hanleys out to Kansas, but was not able to fly Kelsey back with the medical care that she needed.

The 14-year-old was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcomam, a type of cancer, in April of this year.

Through Make-A-Wish, Kelsey did get to meet her great-grandmother, but not the way she planned.

The day after Kelsey arrived in Kansas, she was unresponsive and had difficulty breathing. She was admitted to Children’s Mercy Hospital and placed in the pediatric intensive care unit, said family friend Marissa Bartley.

Kelsey could not leave the hospital to meet with her great-grandmother, but her great-grandmother came to see her, Kelsey’s aunt Terri Teichroeb said.

Though Kelsey was unable to speak, she nodded yes when asked if she knew that her great-grandmother was there, Bartley said. “Tears were rolling down her cheeks,” Bartley said.

It did not seem at first that Kelsey’s health would hinder traveling to Kansas and back on a commercial flight. “This trip was considered approved by Kelsey’s treating physician,” said Kelly O’Malley-McKee, the marketing and communications manager at Make-A-Wish, in an email.

Kelsey’s family and the staff at Make-A-Wish started “Staff members researched options for the child to be transported back to Oregon and were in close communication with the family about the updates throughout the weekend,” O’Malley-McKee said.

Bartley said she searched all weekend trying to find a way for Kelsey to get home. She finally found AeroCare Air Ambulance Service based in Sugar Grove, Ill.

“It would probably cost $20,000 to $30,000,” Renee Mesch, of AeroCare, said.

Bartley said the insurance initially would not cover the cost because it was not considered a medical emergency.

“AeroCare worked diligently with the case management team from the insurance company to get this trip to happen, as time was of the essence,” said Rebecca Werth, director of clinical operations and corporate compliance at AeroCare.  “The case manager was familiar with this case, and went above and beyond, which speaks volumes.”

After about eight phone calls, payment for the transportation was finally granted.

“I cried on the phone when I got the approval,” Mesch said.

Mesch, who has been with AreoCare for about 10 years worked past her shift to make sure Kelsey was able to make it home.

“I was supposed to get off at 7 o’clock (Monday) morning, but I got so involved with this. It was breaking my heart,” Mesch said.

Kelsey’s father, Robert, flew in the air ambulance with her. They arrived in Portland late Monday evening. Make-A-Wish flew Kelsey’s mother Vicki and her sisters back to Oregon. They arrived early Tuesday morning.

“It just amazes me that someone you don’t even know who is so far away will do so much to help,” Bartley said.

On her return to Portland, Kelsey was admitted Doernbecher Hospital, where she is still unresponsive and on a breathing tube, Bartley said.

The family is accepting donations to help cover the costs of medical, and other expenses related Kelsey’s to condition, through an account at US Bank.


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