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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Send The Love

Another on-time arrival! I'm home after eight days on the road with a warm bed waiting for me. But while my body may be in Seattle, my heart and prayers are in Ghana with a special young lady: Lydia Westi.

Today Lydia needs strength, hope, encouragement and prayers. Please take the time to read the email that Jonathan Porter sent to me. Please comment and leave Lydia a message. He will read them to her, and your words will help to get her through this frightening and painful journey in her life.

"Hi there 'friends of Lydia - the disabled young lady working towards becoming a health education pilot'!

Lydia Westi is in the hospital for her surgery on the 16th June.  She will be in hospital for three weeks.'  She will be admitted to Korle Bu for surgery by Dr Ampomah who received specialist training in Glasgow via Resurg Africa. Click HERE to see more.  

Many of you know Lydia personally, Just over a year ago we found Lydia, then 14 years old, working in the market, her right arm suffering from a severe contracture, still bleeding and covered in thick yellow pussy crusts - over 10 years since the incident started and having less than 2 years in any school.  We took her into the MoM/WAASPS family and today, her arm is clean, infection free and covered in fresh skin, she has put on weight, started using a computer, reading and writing to her age group level, has started learning to fly a plane, is capable of running the tower-radio at the airfield on her own (with a great radio voice) and still owns the smile that warms the heart of all that meet her.  We are all proud of her and wish her well in her surgery.  Lydia was one of the key catalysts in the creation of the AvTech Academy, and is the youngest student in our special Vocademic training school.

This will be the first of three or four surgeries that will take place over the next 18months to two years.  We are all excited and also a little scared, as always with somebody who is about to have a slice of flesh, skin and muscle removed from their back, then have a large amount of the skin around their arm peeled back, vessels and tendons carefully released and some repositioning made before grafting the skin and muscle flap (they call it flap surgery) and then fix the arm in position whilst it all starts to heal.  BUT it is a start - and we want to thank all of you for being a part of getting Lydia to the point she is at today, physically, mentally and emotionally.

We are told that the initial cost of the first surgery will be $4,000, which will be paid to Korle Bu on the morning of 12th June, plus we will be looking for volunteers to take food to her every day (we cannot be there everyday with the airfield, school, MoM and the operations), provide visits of encouragement and post-op support of the kind that we all need - happy smiling, friendly faces - can you help? There will be other costs associated, as always, dressings, post-op stuff, etc.  So the challenge list is high.

Preparing for surgery Lydia went to the airport to say good-bye to the planes and the people she works with. She took a flight, kissed the planes good-bye, and told everyone she will be back soon. 

We are hoping that when Lydia comes out from surgery, about five weeks from now, she will move into the new accommodation unit at the airfield - a clean fresh environment that will further reduce the risks of post-operative challenges.  We are close to achieving that too... Nonetheless, this is going to be a challenging time.

Please, if you would like to help, either towards the surgery and care costs, completion of the girls hostel, daily prayers for her surgery and recovery, or with visits, physio, send a letter or a photo of encouragement, a small you-tube (low res please) get well message... we can even arrange a skype call for her - all of these things are part of her recovery.

For this little young lady, who is a real demonstration of rural Ghanaian resiliency and response to being given the opportunity to do something amazing, we look to you all to work together as a team with us - as she goes on to get her pilots license, probably to become the first disabled pilot to be issued a license from ab-initio, and reaches out to her fellow Ghanaians, changing lives one flight at a time.... we need to work now to change her life, one surgery at a time, one physio session at a time and, I have no doubts, several days of tears at a time.  

You can see Lydia flying at and you can read about her here:

If you have not met her.... well, you need to, because this is one special young lady with a real heart, as you can read in her essay that won a prize in an international competition -

When you read that... you will understand!!!

Thank you those who have already supported this, and in advance for those who will be on hand in body, mind and spirit in the coming weeks.

Thank you all."

Jonathan Porter / Capt. Yaw
We Love you Lydia! Soon you'll spread those wings and fly!

Enjoy the Journey!

~ Karlene


  1. My heart is with Lydia as she starts this exciting journey. Surgery can be scary but it can also be wonderful. I know wonderful things are on the horizon for Lydia!

  2. Karlene, I've been riveted to Lydia's story since you first told us about her. I'm emailing Jonathan to ask how to make a small contribution to help with either the girls hostel or the surgery/post-op costs.

    Lydia, you are a truly amazing young woman, the type we all hope our daughters can be. Based on what I've heard about you from Karlene I know that you will work as hard as you need to to recover and thrive beautifully from the surgery, and devote yourself to your dreams. Congratulations. You deserve this opportunity!

  3. Gods speed little one!!!! All my thoughts are with you tonight as you endevor to take flight.
    You will be sorely missed at Oshkosh this year! Tell Jonathan you want to come next year. :)

  4. Lydia, Ben and I are thinking of you and praying for you all the time. We wish we could be there with you during all this, but I've got a big hug saved up for you! Hang in there kiddo, you're going to be such an amazing pilot and health educator (yes, Jonathan, I'm hijacking her help whenever I can steal her away from classes for a bit ;)

  5. We're all praying for you Lydia!!! All the very best, Hella + Tony

  6. UPDATE 06:00GMT : Late last night the Drs decided to postpone surgery to this afternoon (14:00GMT) and to now take flaps from two donor sites - back and thigh. There will be little comfort to lie down with dressings on back, arm AND leg. That is a challenge for this afternoon.

  7. Lydia, I hope your surgery has gone well, and I'm praying that God looks after you with his good grace during your recovery and healing. You are a brave young woman and have already touched many hearts around the world, especially mine!

  8. Lydia, Your surgery WILL be a success and it will be worth all the little aggravations you might have to put up with right now. I will be praying for you and I know you are very brave and very tough, you will be in God's hands. HE will provide for you with love and good graces. The best wishes for you and all the success and love in the world! GOD BLESS!

  9. Heather, Thank you for sharing your thoughts and heart with Lydia! It can be scary. She has so much strength and the love of people surrounding her, that she will go forward with strength.

  10. Linda, Oh wow. Thank you so much for your kind words. You are amazing. I too am going to send something for her care. I'm also trying to get down there. Thank you so much for sharing your heart and your love with this special lady.

  11. Stol Jockey, will there be any way we can keep her from Oshkosh next year? I doubt it. She will be there.

  12. Michaela and Ben, she is going to grow into an amazing woman and accomplish all her dreams. Jonathan, thank you for opening the doors for this little gift to the world. And I may just steal her too. :) Thanks for sending her your love.

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  14. Hella and Tony, Prayers from California are felt across the world. Thank you for sending the love!

  15. Capt Yaw, Thank you for providing the update. Delay in surgery is never a good thing. It gives time for fear to sneak into the mind. Keep her spirits up. We love her!

  16. Oh Jimmy, Such an amazing comment. She has touched my heart too and I've yet to meet her. She'll come away strong and continue to touch many.

  17. Jeannette, Thank you for your prayers!!! She will come away strong and this surgery will be a shadow in her life of experience.

  18. Lydia,

    I posted your story on my Facebook fan page. I've been sending prayers to you all morning. Will keep it up throughout the day. Best to you on getting your wings!

  19. Thank you so much for sending your love from Ireland and sharing on your facebook page, too. I know she feels your prayers!

  20. UPDATE: thank you all for your prayers she is in surgery right now, expected there until 2000zulu or 2100zulu.

    Your love and care from around the world is a great support... I think that we should bring Oshkosh to Ghana next year, then all of the special children that we have around West Africa can share too!!! (sadly we have had to cancel our own airshow this year)

  21. 23:20z and she is still in the theatre... waiting... patience has never been a strong suit for me, and it is not now!!! Please keep up the prayers... more news tomorrow - my battery is getting low...

  22. 0220z - on the ward, looks like an 80degree release... good health yell on her... nearly expect her to shout 'clear prop' at one point!

    thank you all

  23. Update on Lydia... "The brave little Pilot"

    23:00 told to go home. REfusd - LYdia is a crew member... family...not going. Sat in car in car park.

    0145z out of recovery to the ward. SCREAMING for 'Aunty' (patricia),once she heard Patricia's voice she started ti scream 'dad dad dad dad' - I placed my hand on her little head and told her it was OK and she went straight back to dream land... (bless her)...

    0150z 'Oh, we need medicines... ' just as well we stayed... just got enough drips and things for the next 12 hours and will sleep in the car till a relief 'aunty' comes to sit with her - mainly to purchase whatever is needed...

    0200z - 'go buy 2 pillows'....

    Glad to have a job!

    We are both flying at 09:00 (four flights each and a corporate) before
    coming back to the city...

    THank you for ALL of your support in all the ways you are supporting,
    THANK YOU!!!!

    (looks like about eighty degrees opening on her elbow!!! (next op will be the hand...) All of our hearts are surely bleeding...

    Take care

    on behalf of LYDIA - the brave little pilot!

  24. Sending loads of Kisses & Hugs to Lydia on the day of your operation. I trust you will have a speedy recovery. I have so many affirmations to share with you on this special day, I have chosen a selection on #Courage for you and hope someone will be able to read one or two out to you from this link or for more choice they can choose from any of my other affirmations at ~ Sending my #love & #light to you Lydia. All the best for the days and weeks ahead, Big Hugs X☺X☺
    ~ Eleesha ~

  25. Eleesha Thank you for sharing your affirmations. I went to the link and found the perfect message for today:

    My Courage to Accompany Me

    "I know that I have the capacity to
    face all things and to do all things,
    providing I have my courage
    - to accompany me." ~ Eleesha

  26. Hi Lydia,

    I'm Flip from the Philippines and I'd like to wish you well. Everything will soon be find. Take Care!

  27. Flipnomad, Thank you on behalf of Lydia. I know how much she appreciates your wishes.


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