Organs rushed 2,000 km to save a life

Updated: 2014-12-03 07:45

By Cang Wei in Wuxi, Jiangsu(China Daily)

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A pair of lungs donated in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, were successfully transplanted into a patient in Wuxi, Jiansu province, 2,000 kilometers away early on Tuesday, thanks to the combined efforts of doctors, airports and Shenzhen Airlines.

At around 9:30 pm on Monday, Chen Jingyu, deputy director of Wuxi People's Hospital, posted on that the lungs have been removed from the donor but might not be able to be transported to Wuxi within the required five hours because of flight delays.

"The lungs, once removed from the body, need to be implanted within 12 hours to avoid damage," said Chen. "The implant surgery takes about five hours, so the lungs must be transported to the hospital within about five hours."

The post, which was forwarded more than 1,000 times, was noticed by Shenzhen Airlines, which immediately negotiated with the Guangzhou airport and air traffic control and managed to get prepared for takeoff within 20 minutes.

The airline also sent workers to help Liu Feng, the doctor who accompanied the lungs to complete paperwork and get on the plane. According to the airline, applications must be submitted in advance if human organs are to be transported.

Around 11:30 pm, the plane took off from Guangzhou and arrived in Wuxi 20 minutes ahead of schedule. And the Wuxi airport helped Liu get to a waiting ambulance in about five minutes, and the organs made it to the hospital in time.

The patient, who had pulmonary fibrosis, had been waiting for a donation for more than three months.

It was not the first time Chen had relied on an airline to transport organs quickly. In February, he received assistance from China Southern Airlines to transport another set of lungs from Guangzhou to Wuxi.

"We have about 120 organ donors every month," Chen said. "But the time window for the heart and lung transplantation surgeries is narrow. Organ functions may be influenced if flights are delayed.

"We hope that an emergency transport system that include airlines and highways can be established to improve the current situation."

Chen added that he hopes a heart and lung distribution network can be established soon to distribute organs to nearby hospitals in need.

The lung transplantation center at Wuxi People's Hospital, led by Chen, is the world's fifth-largest and has completed more than 300 transplantation surgeries. The survival rate of patients has reached 82 percent in the past year.

(China Daily 12/03/2014 page5)