Saving People and Puppies

Nursing alumnus Ben Henry '11 inside his plane that's outfitted for animal rescue. (Photo provided)

Matt Hawkins
October 3, 2016

Bradley nursing alumnus Ben Henry ’11 is saving more than people as a travel nurse for Boston Medical Center. Gifted with passions for people, planes and puppies, he sustains life in BMC’s trauma/surgical intensive care unit by day and rescues animals during spare time.

Henry, a lifelong animal lover with a longtime interest in flying, delivers rescue animals to shelters for Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit animal rescue organization that uses licensed pilots to transport furry four-legged cargo to new families.

“I love flying and rescuing puppies because it gives meaning to my flights,” Henry said. “Two years ago, I never would’ve guessed that I’d be here with my pilot’s license and my own plane doing charitable flights to benefit animals. I can’t believe how everything came together. I’ve seen the most beautiful landscapes in the U.S. and met amazing, compassionate people in unexpected places because of this.”

Henry’s aeronautical adventure began on a whim in 2014. He tried a promotional flight with a flying school while working at a San Antonio hospital. That experience rekindled memories of his childhood flying model aircraft in Chillicothe, Illinois. Thus, he decided to learn how to fly actual planes.

He earned his pilot’s license in early 2016, bought a plane and connected with Pilots N Paws, an organization he found through a fellow nurse. To create a first-class experience for canine passengers, Henry outfitted the aircraft with a cage, food, treats and a few other items. He’ll eventually note each rescued animal with paw prints on the plane.

Animal rescue provided an ideal situation to work with animals in a profession that makes pet ownership difficult. Though he grew up with several pets, Henry knew long hospital shifts and frequent job transitions would be tough on four-pawed companions.

“Animal rescue is great for me because I can have a dog for a few hours as I transport it to a home where it will be welcomed,” he said. “It’s rewarding to see new owners gratefully pick up their new animals. I know I not only saved a dog’s life, but I possibly saved someone else’s life by giving them a family member to love.”

Henry’s hobbies also share a unique healing link to his professional career. As an intensive care nurse for most of his young career, he’s seen people at their worst moments. As an animal rescue pilot, he’s transported animals from rough situations to welcoming homes.

These are adventures he said wouldn’t have happened without the influence of Bradley faculty.

“My experiences in health care and medicine from the beginning made me a caring person,” Henry said. “I’m lucky I had excellent professors who pushed me to become the person I am. I look back and realize I wouldn’t be where I am without my start at Bradley.”