Organ donation is an emotionally charged subject under any circumstances, but the recent news from Michigan has been devastating. A transplant surgery team from the University of Michigan was killed while rushing back to the hospital when their plane crashed into Lake Michigan. The donated lungs are lost as well, and the recipient — already prepped for open chest surgery — may become the 7th fatality. The New York Times has more:
What was meant to be a mission to save the life of a man in desperate need of a lung transplant ended instead on Monday in the deaths of four members of a medical team and two pilots of a plane that crashed while racing to fly the organs from Milwaukee to Michigan.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that they thought mechanical difficulties, not a light rain or wind, caused the plane, an eight-seat Cessna jet, to slam into Lake Michigan at about 190 miles an hour on Monday afternoon, just minutes after taking off from General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.
Besides the two pilots, the accident killed two transplant surgeons and two perfusionists — specialists in transplanting organs — from the University of Michigan Medical Center.
The unidentified patient, who was being prepared for surgery to receive his long-awaited transplant when the crash occurred, remained in critical condition… A second team of doctors had begun operating on the intended recipient of the organs about three hours before they received word of the crash and halted the procedure.
The article ends on this poignant note:
Mr. Chenault, who joined the university in 1985, received the United States Department of Health and Human Services distinguished Medal of Honor last year for his efforts to increase organ donation.
Dr. Campbell said Mr. Chenault was skilled at comforting families who had lost loved ones and were preparing to donate their organs. “Now we’re left to do the same thing with his family,” Dr. Campbell said.
One of the editors of Inside Surgery has some experience with transplants and writes about the harvest, and the risks involved for the teams.
More from the University of Michigan…
Flashbacks: MedEvac: a poor safety record?; USA Today Investigates Medevacs