Ill Portland man gets free flight for treatment

This Citation XLS, owned by Texas Jacobson Aviation, makes a careful landing for Grace Flight as it delivers its patient to Portland Municipal Airport Friday afternoon. (Leader photo/Sonya Thompson)


Grace Flight, Texas Jacobson Aviation donate trip to Houston

By Sonya Thompson, Editor
Thursday, October 20, 2011 12:11 AM CDT


It was a graceful landing Friday afternoon as the Citation XLS named “Yom Kippur Clipper” glided into Portland Municipal Airport with very special cargo on board.

And as the plane taxied around, stopping near the fueling station, Donna Yoakum could hardly contain her excitement at seeing her husband carefully exit the plane, stopping to kiss their daughter before planting an affectionate kiss on her cheek.

It’s been two weeks since they’ve seen each other. Two long weeks of waiting while Tom Yoakum, 56, underwent a critical transfusion of a synthetic, corn-based plasma in a Houston hospital.

It’s a procedure he endures every six to eight months, but this trip was different.


This trip was taken courtesy of Grace Flight and Texas Jacobson Aviation.

And it’s one round-trip flight for which the Yoakums are forever grateful.

Yoakum suffers from myasthenia gravis, which is “a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disorder that is characterized by fluctuating weakness of the voluntary muscle groups.

The prevalence of MG in the United States is estimated to be about 20/100,000 population,” according to

Yoakum receives plasmapheresis, which removes the abnormal antibodies from the plasma of the blood. It has to be performed in Houston because the hospital there is the only one who will treat his incredibly rare condition — Yoakum is allergic to human plasma.

Instead, he gets a transfusion of Hespan, a synthetic plasma expander that produces expansion of plasma blood volume.

Even though he’s attempted to receive the transfusions locally — and was refused due to the rarity of the procedure — he continues to have to travel to Houston.

The process of flying commercial for his transfusions is arduous, exhausting and exposes Yoakum to untold germs. Due to his compromised immune system and the risk of exposure to infection by flying commercial, the family contacted Grant Jacobson of Texas Jacobson Aviation.

“Regardless of how much money you have, sometimes it is not in a person’s best interest to fly commercially, especially with a compromised immune system,” Yoakum added.

Texas Jacobson Aviation, which is partnered with both Grace Flight and Mercy Medical Airlift, was happy to provide the transportation to Yoakum, a former U. S. Marine.

“I love to fly and I have been very fortunate in life,” said Grant Jacobson, CEO of Texas Jacobson. “If you are fortunate, you are obliged to give back. I love to fly and I can do what I love to do and help others. That’s a great thing.”

“These people are gold,” Yoakum said as he shook Jacobson’s hand after the flight. “Somebody has to give it back. They say go to church and give to the Lord — that’s what they do. These people took good care of me and brought me right to the door of the hospital.”

“I’m very grateful,” Yoakum added. “I look at them and know it will come back to them. I, for one, will give to the Lord by giving to this organization. They are there for you no matter what, if a commercial flight is too difficult for you and you have a medical problem, then they will fly you without asking anything in return. This is true Christianity.”

Yoakum and his family moved to Portland last year from Houston. It was a difficult decision to make, knowing he would be leaving the hospital where he receives care, but he made the move to support his daughter’s music career.

“That’s my baby,” he said as he reached over and took Kimberly’s hand in his. “I moved here to support her.”

Yoakum is thankful that, if need be, he’ll have Jacobson to fly him to Houston for future treatments.

Grace Flight of America flew more than 1,600 missions last year and is on track to increase that number by 50 percent for the current year. The volunteer pilots and aircraft owners who serve with Grace Flight provide their time, their equipment and even their own fuel and operating costs with no reimbursement.

Grace Flight works with hospitals; care facilities; and social, community and religious workers to identify people whose access to critical care is hampered due to location or transportation difficulties.

All Grace Flight services are provided free of charge to those in need. Grace Flight is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation headquartered in Addison, Texas, and operates nationwide either directly or through cooperation with other volunteer pilot organizations.

For more information, visit

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