Blue An­gels touch down to meet with young flight fans

In town for Fleet Week, four crew mem­bers visit hospi­tal pa­tients, fam­i­lies

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Jes­sica An­der­son Lindie McDonough, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ther­a­pist jkan­der­son@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/jan­ders5

Mem­bers of the U.S. Navy Blue An­gels use equip­ment worth mil­lions of dol­lars all the time, but Fri­day they han­dled some­thing even more pre­cious when they vis­ited young pa­tients at Mount Wash­ing­ton Pe­di­atric Hospi­tal.

“We’re here vis­it­ing those kids who might not be able to make the air show this week­end and show them that we are here for them,” said Lt. Cmdr. Joe Schwartz, the Blue An­gels’ flight sur­geon and a na­tive of Ar­ling­ton, Va.

The elite fly­ing team is in town as part of Mary­land Fleet Week and Air Show and is sched­uled to per­form over Bal­ti­more to­day and Sun­day.

Four Navy per­son­nel came to the hospi­tal Fri­day to meet pa­tients and their fam­i­lies.

“The staff that have come in have been so great with our kids,” said Lindie McDonough, a se­nior re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ther­a­pist at the hospi­tal.

“So many of our pa­tients and fam­i­lies are go­ing through a lot of stress right now,” she said, “and just to see their faces light up, to see the hope that they have ... just makes our day as well.”

In one room, nurse Rachel Wil­liams held up an 8-month-old boy as Schwartz stopped in for a visit.

“He was so fussy when we walked in, now he’s re­laxed,” McDonough said.

Schwartz and Navy Hospi­tal Corps­man Clarence Pres­ley also met tiny 3-month-old Tyler Bachan and his par­ents. Tyler was born two months pre­ma­ture, and his mom and dad have spent the past two months at the hospi­tal be­tween work and naps at home.

“That was a sur­prise,” said Tyler’s fa­ther, Terry Bachan, of the Blue An­gels visit. The Reis­ter­stown cou­ple said they’d have gone to Blue An­gels demon­stra­tions in prior years but won’t make the Fleet Week ac­tiv­i­ties as they tend to their young son.

At a treat­ment room down­stairs, Pres­ley sat next to a 4-year-old girl who was wear­ing “Frozen” pa­ja­mas at a ta­ble with other chil­dren. Pres­ley and the girl each placed air­plane stick­ers on a fin­ger and pre­tended to “race” one an­other through the air.

Mean­while, Jesse Bon­ham, a 9-year-old who was at Mount Wash­ing­ton to re­cover from re­cent leg surgery, quizzed Schwartz on how quickly and how high the Blue An­gels fly in for­ma­tion. Jesse’s mother, Am­ber Bon­ham, said the fam­ily, who live in Har­ford County, al­ways watches for planes fly­ing over Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground.

“We’ve wanted to go to the events,” Bon­ham said of Fleet Week, but she’s busy be­tween hospi­tal vis­its, work and two other chil­dren. “It’s hard, but you do what you got to do.”

As the Blue An­gles travel across the coun­try and around the world, squadron mem­bers know their busy per­for­mance sched­ule — and a few thou­sand feet of al­ti­tude — pre­vent them from mak­ing di­rect con­tact with many of the peo­ple who would like to see them.

The visit to Mount Wash­ing­ton pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity for some eye-to-eye con­tact.

Schwartz, who has been a mem­ber of the Blue An­gels team for two years, said it’s a “won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence” to meet flight fans.

“We hope to see them the next time we come to town,” he said.

“The staff that have come in have been so great with our kids.”

JES­SICA AN­DER­SON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Blue An­gels Lt. Cmdr. Joe Schwartz hands stick­ers over to 8-month-old Drae­den Baust, held by nurse Rachel Wil­liams at Mount Wash­ing­ton Pe­di­atric Hospi­tal. Schwartz, a mem­ber of the Blue An­gels for two years, said it’s a “won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence” to meet flight fans.

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