By Angel MedFlight Contributor
Some 50 family members and friends were at the airport holding signs and bouquets of balloons awaiting his arrival. The long wait was finally over. A loud cheer rose from the crowd as the door of the Angel MedFlight Learjet 60 opened and Selester Rowe was taken off the air ambulance on a stretcher. There were hugs. There were tears of joy. On a warm and muggy afternoon in Columbus, Ga., Selester “Les” Rowe was finally home.
Just over a year ago Rowe, 63, was the victim of a hit-and-run in San Francisco. The suspect has not been apprehended. Homeless in San Francisco, Rowe suffered brain and spinal injuries along with multiple broken bones and has been recovering in a rehabilitation center. His family wanted him home in Georgia and thanks to a community-wide fundraising effort and Angel MedFlight, those wishes came true last Thursday.
James “Monk” Johnson, who attended the same high school as Rowe, spearheaded the effort to raise the funds to pay for Rowe’s flight. A 1975 San Francisco 49ers draft pick, Johnson organized a “Help Les” committee and donations began to come in. Larry Anderson, a high school classmate of Rowe’s, told the Bay City News website the majority of the money was raised in less than two months. Donations came from many sources including several churches and fish fries. Johnson himself doing much of the frying!
Once the funds were raised, Angel MedFlight acted quickly to transport Rowe to Columbus. A member of Rowe’s family was unable to make the flight from Oakland, Calif., last week so Angel MedFlight flight coordinator Jessica Merwin stepped in, helping to escort Rowe with medic Dave Whitehead and flight nurse John McKenna at the patient’s side. Merwin had been communicating with Rowe’s family for about seven months.
Finally the face-to-face meeting. After so many phone conversations, Merwin met Rowe’s sister La Creaser Rock. The two exchanged a tight embrace on the tarmac, the happiness and gratitude etched into Rock’s face as she put her arms around Merwin, eyes closed tightly.Before Rowe was transported to the a local care facility, a local pastor led the group in prayer. The ambulance carrying Rowe was given a police escort — lights flashing and sirens wailing.
The family’s gratitude grew into Southern hospitality as Merwin and Angel MedFlight videographer Albert Miller were invited to dinner at a local barbecue restaurant. Angel MedFlight’s video documenting Rowe’s journey home will be released soon.
The time at the restaurant allowed Merwin and Miller to find out more about Rowe. How he was an architectural engineer at Tuskegee University. His high school pals remembered with smiles that Rowe was always a snazzy dresser and a ladies man.
As family and friends downed racks of delicious ribs and sipped lemonade and sweet tea, Rock said Angel MedFlight was a “wonderful, wonderful company to deal with.”
Wonderful was the love and support that came from a number of communities, namely San Francisco and Columbus, which raised funds for Rowe’s care and medical transport. Wonderful was the sight of Rowe on the tarmac in Columbus, unable to speak, raising a hand to give his mother a wave. A wave as if to say, ‘Mom, I’m home.’