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Organ Transplant OK after Jet Crashes and Burns; Air Ambulance Pilot Helps Save Liver

Reuters ImageIn a recent UK story that is now receiving a lot of attention here in the States — a plane carrying a donor organ crashed and burst into flames while attempting to land on the tarmac at Birmingham International Airport in thick London-like fog.

The organ — a liver — was being carried from Belfast on board a small twin-engined Cessna 501 “Citation” which clipped an antenna as the pilot tried to land at the end of the obscured runway. According to witnesses, the plane partially missed the tarmac and caught on fire in mid-air, becoming a fireball as it hit the ground.

A pilot from an air ambulance helicopter nearby ran to the wreckage, bravely entered the burning wreckage and turned off the fuel line, with the 58-year old pilot and a crewmember in his 30′s trapped inside.

Because of the air ambulance pilot’s quick thinking in cutting the fuel supply, he and other EMS workers were able to save the liver and rescue the crew before the plane exploded.

Paramedics treated the survivors, who were airlifted to the hospital as firefighters covered the burning wreckage in foam. The liver was transported by police escort to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. A spokeswoman for QEHB later announced that the liver transplant was “successful.”

She added “The transplant team would like to thank the pilot of the light aircraft and his colleague for their bravery. Our thoughts are with the individuals and their families. The team would also like to thank the quick-thinking of the fire and rescue teams at the scene who saved the organ.”

Birmingham International Airport was closed following the crash, leaving thousands stranded as experts from England’s AAIB (Air Accidents Investigation Branch) examined the site of the crash landing. The Cessna pilot was said to be in serious but stable condition after suffering chest, abdomen, and pelvic injuries. A second crew member was treated for flash burns and a back injury.

Due to patient confidentiality, no details about the organ transplant are available other than the fact that the liver was undamaged and successfully transplanted in the now-stable recipient, who was reportedly conversing, eating, and drinking normally the morning following the operation. The patient had been among the sickest patients on the liver transplant list, and would certainly have died within days without a transplant.

The consultant liver transplant surgeon at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Simon Bramhall, said it was “pretty amazing” that the liver made it to the hospital in perfect condition.

We think it’s pretty amazing, too.

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