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Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center nurse volunteers with Honor Flight Chicago

Friday September 27, 2013
Leigh Halpern, MD, (left) and Kiersten Solis, RN, in Washington, D.C., after volunteering with Honor Flight Chicago.
Leigh Halpern, MD, (left) and Kiersten Solis, RN, in Washington, D.C., after volunteering with Honor Flight Chicago.
(Photo from Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth)
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Kiersten Solis, RN, BSN, woke up at 3 a.m., got dressed and headed to Midway International Airport in Chicago for a trip she will never forget. The ED nurse educator and charge nurse at Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center in Chicago returned home the next day at 3 a.m.

On June 12, Solis and PSMEMC emergency physician Leigh (Chip) Halpern, MD, volunteered for the first time to provide medical support on a trip sponsored by Honor Flight Chicago. The organization honors veterans, mostly from World War II, by flying them at no charge to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials honoring their service to the U.S.

Volunteer nurses, doctors and others who help out make the trips possible.

“It was amazing,” Solis said in a news release. She served as guardian for two vets on the plane and one active 95-year-old on the bus. “The goal was to keep everyone safe – there were some minor things during the trip and the healthcare team did plenty of bandaging.”

There were 87 World War II veterans on the trip – including one female nurse. Each vet could bring along a family member or friend. Three physicians and seven nurses made up the medical team. In all, there were about 200 individuals in their group.

The vets and medical team volunteers met at 4:30 a.m. at Midway and then boarded the flight to the nation’s capital. By bus, the group then visited memorials including Lincoln, Korean and Vietnam in 90-degree heat. The group also toured the National Air and Space Museum.

“A lot of the guys flew on these planes and had great stories to share. It was very interesting, very cool,” said Solis, who joined PSMEMC in 2008.

According to the release, Halpern and Solis had been motivated to chaperone after hearing a colleague, Peggy SanFilippo, RN, ED, EMS educator, talking about the flights.

After a long day, the flight home was delayed two hours and didn’t leave until 9:30 p.m. They arrived at Midway about midnight. One experience was “mail call” during the trip home. Family, guardians and friends prepared letters to the vets in advance and they were delivered during the flight.

According to the release, Solis thought with the late arrival there wasn’t going to be a large crowd to welcome the vets, but they were greeted by about 600 people – including family members and friends, Girl and Boy Scouts, students from area schools, the Chicago Fire Department and others.

“The vets felt special and were touched by the welcome home,” Solis said in the release.


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