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Pediatric Rehab Patients from Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach Take Flight

Ismeal Cuevas (r) with his two older brothers Emmanuel and Samuel.  Ismael actually helped fly the Cessna Jet over Long Beach.

Ismeal Cuevas (r) with his two older brothers Emmanuel and Samuel. Ismael actually helped fly the Cessna Jet over Long Beach.

By Tammye McDuff

Patients from the Pediatric Rehabilitation Department of Miller Children’s Hospital, joined pilots at the Pacific Jet Center / Mustang Sally & Flight Center in order to help children take flight.

The pediatric patients from the Hospital are those with very special needs, such as spina bifida, brain injuries, and neuromuscular disorders. With the help of some very special people, these children were able to experience their first “Discovery Flight’ outing at the Pacific Jet Center / Mustang Sally & Flight Center in Long Beach.

For the past 15 years, rehab patients and their families receive basic training, where pilots discuss the aerodynamics of flight and talk about what the flight will involve. After their training session, the children get to climb into a Cessna type plane and take the coveted seat as co-pilot, while experiencing hands on flight across the ocean, circling Catalina Island and then heading back to the mainland. The kids learn to maintain level flight, turn, climb, descend and land a plane. Each co-pilot leaves, their earth bound walkers, wheelchairs and braces behind, strapping into the co-pilot seat equipped with walkie-talkies and head sets.

Recreational therapy uses play, recreation and leisure activates like flying, to improve the physical, cognitive, social and emotional abilities of children with special needs. Recreational therapy also helps build confidence and facilitates increased independent functioning for the child. Miller Children’s and the Pacific Jet Center have create these special “Discovery Flights” to instill a sense of adventure and confidence in each patient.

HMG-CN was able to climb aboard a Cessna Citation Mustang, a single pilot, six passenger duel jet plane with Captain George Argyros. His seven year old co-pilot for the afternoon was Miller Hospital patient Ismeal Cuevas. Ismael was born with a rare brain abnormality which was exasperated by two falls. He has lost control of the left side of his body, but was able to hold on to the pilot wheel with big smiles as we cruised through the clouds toward Catalina Island.

Ismeal was accompanied by his two older brothers Emmanuel and Samuel along with his mother Raquel, who beamed with pride as she watched her son take control and follow directions.

Argyros told the other pilots, “Ismael was awesome. We skimmed right above the clouds, right over Newport Harbor, Long Beach and over the Seal Beach Naval Base. This kid had his hands gripped and eyes on the prize!”

Millers Hospital provides outings every month for their patients, next month patients will be able to go sailing, snorkeling and even scuba diving. Mariana de Sena, Recreational Therapist said, “The idea is to take the kids from their everyday routine and let them know – whatever they dream of doing, they can do. We want to encourage all of our kids to reach for the stars, and remember the sky is the limit.”

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