From Richmond to Philadelphia, a quicker, more comfortable ride to treatment

    Michael Valdrighi (L) and William Moore ready to take off from Northeast Philadelphia Airport. (Neema Roshania Patel/WHYY)

    Michael Valdrighi (L) and William Moore ready to take off from Northeast Philadelphia Airport. (Neema Roshania Patel/WHYY)

    On a brisk morning, William Moore revs up his Beechcraft A36 Bonanza to fly cancer patient Michael Valdrighi home after a series of medical treatments. 

    Moore is part of Angel Flight East — a coalition of pilots who volunteer their time and planes to fly medical patients from wherever they live to wherever they need to go for treatment. 

    For Valdrighi, that’s from his home outside Richmond, Virginia to Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia. He has renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer, and has been going to CTCA for three years. 

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    Michael Valdrighi on his way home. (Neema Roshania Patel/WHYY)

    “I’ve lived in Virginia my whole life … love it, won’t go nowhere else but Philly has been my home for the last three years,” said Valdrighi. 

    He started off by driving to Philadelphia, but that quickly wore on his energy. Then he and his wife started taking the train.

    “When you’re battling all types of cancer and stuff like that … your bones hurt, you’re achy and you’re sitting on a train,” said Valdrighi. “It’s hard on your body.”

    He said the movement on the train made his symptoms worse. 

    “I had a hole in my stomach and that didn’t help. It went from a pencil hole to the size of my fists and the jiggling on the train just made it worse,” he said. 

    So they started taking the occasional commerical flight to Philadelphia for his treatments. That option quickly became too expensive to sustain. That’s when someone at the hospital referred Valdrighi to Angel Flight East. 

    By the end of that week, he was on his first flight. He’s now flown back and forth to Philadelphia with dozens of different pilots. While he said he was a bit nervous on his first ride, he considers himself a pro now.

    He especially enjoys watching the fields and farmland pass below him as he gets closer to home. 

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    (Neema Roshania Patel/WHYY) 

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