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Teen battling illness becomes pilot for a day

Program designed to help children with chronic or life threatening illnesses

SAN ANTONIO – Zach Guiterrez was diagnosed with a kidney disease in 2007. Since then he’s had a kidney transplant, but it failed.  

The Brackenridge High School student has been on hemodialysis since 2013. Zach became the 433rd Airlift Wing's first Pilot for a Day on Saturday.

It's a program designed to help children with chronic or life threatening illnesses.   

His mother, Bonnie Lopez, said programs like Pilot for a Day are a reminder that her son still has opportunities ahead, "I don't like to say disability but that his condition isn't going to prevent him from moving forward and enjoying life," Lopez said.

Although it is a national program, Saturday was the first time a pilot from San Antonio participated.

Colonel David Scott, the vice commander of the Air Force Reserve's 433rd Airlift Wing at Lackland, said he's thrilled to host it and to meet Zach.  

"Well, we'll say honorary Second Lt. Guiterrez or Zach. Awesome, awesome young guy," Scott said.

Lopez said she and her husband were both overwhelmed that the airmen took time to help her son.

"They meet people that help, you know, with our country the challenges that they face I think it’s an opportunity for him to become stronger. To know that all the way around us as Americans are together in every fight. You know not just other things but as a full circle," she said.

Zach was chosen by the Children's Hospital of San Antonio to become the first Pilot for a Day. Scott said he hopes to host the program several times each year.