Trip of a lifetime: Fulfilling Willie’s dream | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | March 9, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: March 7, 2018 at 9:15 am
Willie Childs landed at Lowcountry Regional Airport March 3 after about 20 minutes in the air, but, based on his description of the flight, it was going be much longer before Childs comes back to earth.
Childs, a resident of the PruittHealth Bamberg nursing home, explained he has wanted a ride in an airplane since he was 10 years old — his first trip into the clouds came 57 years later.
“I was smiling when I took off, just like I am now,” Childs said after Skydive Walterboro owner Billy Carter landed and Childs was helped from the front seat of the airplane by several of the Bamberg nursing home staff who had accompanied Childs on the trip to Walterboro.
The afternoon flight was made on a windy day, winds that at times made for a bumpy ride. “I thought one time my little **** was going to fall out,” Childs said. His concern melted away as Carter explained the ups and downs of cutting through the wind in a small plane.
Childs arrived for his flight in a shirt and tie. Brenda Jennings, Childs’ social worker at the Bamberg facility, said he didn’t get much sleep and hadn’t eaten much as the hours before the flight melted away.
“Now I know what it is like,” Childs said from his geri-chair after the flight. “Now I have something I can talk about. When I get back home, there will be a whole lot I will want to talk about.
“This would not have happened without the staff,” Childs said. “They go way out of their way — they went out of their way to make this day possible.”
The staff of the nursing home made it their goal to ensure Childs’ dream was realized.
PruittHealth operates a charity group, Committed to Caring (C2C), with branches at each home and pharmacy.
Sarah RexRoad, chairperson for the CEC branch at the company’s pharmacy in Lexington, said because the pharmacy does not have patients, its chapter partnered with the Bamberg facility to fulfill Childs’ dream.
“I met this patient a couple of weeks ago and learned how talkative, funny and friendly he is, and how much his care team loves working with him,” RexRoad said.
“He is always in good spirits, despite severe physical disability that keeps him confined to a geri chair,” she said.
“To make matters worse, the patient was hospitalized for a few days last week and we were afraid he would not be able to tolerate a plane ride.”
Melissa Charlebois, a nurse at the Bamberg nursing home, along with RexRoad, made the flight from the second row of seats. Charlesbois was on board to monitor Childs and RexRoad to video his flight.
Jennings said the staff was determined to make it happen since Carter volunteered to pilot Childs’ first ride.
“Willie is an inspiration to me every day. He is to everybody. He always wears a smile, never complains. He is one of a kind,” Jennings said.