The calls come day, night, weekends and holidays. For Steve Klapka it's part of the job. Klapka is president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Hernando County, the union representing sheriff's deputies.
When Klapka's phone range last week, he did what he always does; he got busy helping a deputy in need. This time was a little different. Klapka didn't know the deputy; in fact, the deputy didn't even work in Hernando County.
Dan Witt patrolled the streets of Hillsborough County for 13 years. The 33-year-old father of four fought a rare form of cancer for five years. Finally, it went into remission and Witt went back to work.
But then, in 2011, Witt was involved in a foot chase with a suspect.
"We laughed, we though he pulled a muscle," Witt's father George recalled.
But the laughing quickly vanished, because the pain in Witt's stomach didn't subside.
"We went back to the hospital and the doctor said the cancer was back," the elder Witt said.
This time, the cancer was winning the fight. Witt lost 70 pounds, and the tumor protrudes awkwardly from his abdomen.
Witt said doctors haven't been able to slow the tumor down with experimental drugs. But specialists at the MD Anderson Cancer in Houston Texas offered some hope -- if only Witt could get there.
A lengthy trip by car could be dangerous, and flying would be quick, but the rigors of airline travel could be risky for a cancer patient.
"I don't think I could handle the normal upright seats and dealing with the airport," Dan Witt said as he reclined in the front seat of an SUV Tuesday.
Steve Klapka had the solution: an air ambulance. Jet ICU, an air ambulance company based at the Hernando County Airport, teamed up with another company, Jet Concepts, to fly Witt, his father and wife to Houston.
"As soon as Steve (Klapka) called, I knew I could put this together in 10 minutes," Robert Rey, president of Jet Concepts, explained.
Tuesday morning, a specially-equipped Lear Jet was waiting for Witt.
"It's an answered prayer that I would be given the opportunity to have this private jet," Witt said before leaving.
Bake sales, car washes and benefit concerts often help those like Witt. The kind of specialty transportation offered to Witt, free of charge, can cost up to $10,000.00.
"It's not a matter of what it costs or who it helps," Rey explained. "I can guarantee you that there is nothing more important in his (Witt's) life than his kids, and knowing he'll possibly have an opportunity to spend more time with his kids is fantastic."
Jet ICU's Bill Honycutt put it another way.
"We see these deputies all the time. They're always looking, taking care of us, but what we found is that so many times, nobody is there to take care of them."
Witt got some good news: doctors in Houston hope they can devise a new course of treatment. As for Klapka, he waited at the airport well after midnight for Witt to return. He was back at work a few hours later, waiting for the next call.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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