LEHMAN TWP. – Scott Walters has spent much of his life helping other people.
Until last September, Walters, a Life Flight pilot, husband and father of five, spent much of his time supporting his family, doing his job with enthusiasm and supporting his church. That all changed just before Labor Day when he woke up not feeling well.
“We usually gather together for the Labor Day holiday,” said Betsy Tribendis, Walters’ aunt. “But, when I spoke with him that Monday, he said he thought he might have a virus or something.”
Walters was taken to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center the next day and then flown by Life Flight to Geisinger Danville and diagnosed. By Wednesday, he was receiving chemotherapy for Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
“From assisting people as a Life Flight pilot on Sunday to receiving treatment on Wednesday,” his aunt said.
Still, in the year since his diagnosis, much of it spent in the hospital, Walters has not lost faith.
“At the end of each conversation, when I say goodbye,” said his mom, Nancy Walters, “he replies, ‘God is good.’”
When Walters has had time away from the hospital, not only does he tend to the needs of his family, he heads to the Wyoming Valley Rescue Mission to share his story with others.
Walters continues to believe that God is good, even in the face of the death of his father Gary in a automobile accident shortly after visiting his son on Aug. 23.
“We’re now continuing our journey of faith, not only as to help Scott, but as a memorial to my brother,” said Tribendis. “We’re just doing one thing at a time.”
Walters graduated from Lake-Lehman High School in 1994 and then went on to study at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was a member of ROTC.
Upon graduating from college in 1998, he was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy and went to flight school.
During his nine years in the military, Walters earned his helicopter instructor license and was promoted to lieutenant.
After completing his military service in 2007, Walters returned to Pennsylvania and began working for the Geisinger Health System.
After marrying his wife, Alicia, and having five children, Walters continued to rely on his faith and his commitment to community as an anchor for his life.
Nancy Walters, a proud grandmother, said she carries a photo of Walters’ five children in her wallet, quick to pull it out and name all five, along with their ages.
“Elena, 15; Jenna, 14; Kate, 12; Lauren, 11; and then our boy, Silas, 7,” said Walters.
To Susan Reissig, Walters’ sister, he is her hero, not only because of his military service, his status as a pilot or his polished appearance, but because she says he’s always been a kind and supportive brother, able to encourage her even when he was in pain.
“He’s so sick, but when I call him, he offers me support,” she said. “He cheers me up.”
In March, Reissig was able to donate bone marrow to her brother, a perfect “10 out of 10” match.
Reissig said because of Walters’ character and personality, even the medical personnel at the University of Pennsylvania have become “like family” to him.
“At one point, he was rushed back to the hospital and the nurses were their waiting for him,” she said.
Nurses also held a floor-wide birthday party for him July 14.
“When we arrived the next day to celebrate, the room was already decorated,” said Reissig.
An intensive care doctor told Walters, “If you were a lesser man, you would have given up. You’re special.”
Several times it has become necessary for Walters to be transported by Life Flight for emergency treatment. His co-workers stepped in to make that trip with him.
“He provided Life Flight to patients and now he’s able to be a recipient of Life Flight,” said Tribendis.
Most recently Walters’ good friend, Dave Conboy, a fellow pilot, ensured that he got to the University of Pennsylvania when his oxygen fell to an unacceptable level.
Hopes are high that Walters will fully recover and return to his family, but should that happen, Walters is presented with yet another challenge.
“The type of cancer he has means the FAA won’t allow him to return to his previous job,” said Tribendis. “So, he’s going to need to find another job when he gets well.”
Knowing that Walters is facing upcoming challenges, his co-workers, friends and family have put together a fundraiser entitled “Flying High for a Cause.”
The event, set for Saturday, Sept. 22 at the Wyoming Valley Airport in Forty Fort, will be celebratory with food, raffles, games, face painting and a bounce house.
Funds raised will be used to support Walters’ family with travel, living and other expenses incurred while he has been ill and without a salary.
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