Serving Organ Transplant Teams

LCT Magazine
Posted on April 24, 2008

By Jim A. Luff

About fifteen years ago I landed an account with an organ recovery company.  They specialize in finding organ donors for those who are waiting for organs.  They have regional reps and hospitals notify them of possible donors based on stickers on driver licenses, family wishes or just a good possible candidate such as a child.  The coordinators go to the hospital, meet with the family and if all goes well, the process begins.

And so it was early Thursday morning that we were asked to respond to a local hospital where we were to pickup several tubes of blood samples and deliver them to various labs and medical facilities throughout California.  Why us?  Because Fed Ex can positively get it there by 10:00am the next business day but when it has to be there in less than 3 hours, we can get it done.  I mean, a Town Car doesn’t have to carry a human passenger at $54 an hour does it?

The blood samples are then used by regional labs to determine who is a perfect match for the organs the donor is giving up.  Once the decisions are made, things can get a little crazy as patients in need of new organs are located and then “harvest teams” are dispatched to retrieve the organ from the donor, fly to the recipient patient and implant the new organ that will change their life forever.

When a child is the donor, more teams will come because they are usually young, healthy organs.  You will have a heart team, a lung team, liver team, tissue team, eye/cornea team, bone team etc.  Each team needs their own vehicle.  It can get really busy and it requires precision timing and orchestration.  The heart team has top priority while the bone team has least priority.

Harvest teams around the nation all have limo services or networks they use to get their people to an airport quickly and follow through with all ground transportation.  For instance, Diva Limousine has an account with UCLA Medical Center teams.  So, when we get called for blood samples, we notify Diva out of courtesy as a “heads up”.  Diva will almost always get an order for the surgical team members to be picked up and delivered to a plane or helicopter within the next 24 hours.  Diva will then farm the order to us for local transportation of their surgeon passengers. 

At 4:30am on Friday, I received a call from our dispatcher.  It is never a good thing to hear the phone ring at that time of the morning.  I was informed that we had numerous teams arriving and we should probably have an onsite coordinator and that both our operations manager and fleet manager had been called out already to drive because of the number of teams coming.  So, off I went to the hospital to coordinate.  For every team that arrives, such as UCLA’s liver team, we must call Diva to let them know status changes such as, the plane on the ground, POB, arrived at hospital, POB back to the plane and wheels up, the plane is enroute home for the 30 minute flight from Bakersfield to Van Nuys.  Diva then puts a car in place to take the surgeons to the hospital.  I also call the FBO to relay to the pilot when teams are on their way back to the airplane so they are ready to go.

It is exhausting but rewarding.  About two months later, we are provided a full report of how many people benefitted and how it changed their life.  Do you know from a single organ donor as many as fifteen people can benefit and resume normal lives?  An awesome thing to be a part of for sure.

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