Patient gets second set of lungs
A patient whose double lung transplant operation was stopped after a plane carrying donor organs crashed into Lake Michigan has received a second set of lungs, doctors announced Friday.
The 50-year-old Michigan man, whose name wasn't released at his family's request, was in critical condition at a University of Michigan Health System hospital after the more than seven-hour surgery ended early Thursday, the health system said.
"We are relieved that we were able to do this transplant and give this man another chance for life," Dr. Jeffrey Punch, director of the Division of Transplantation at University of Michigan, said in a statement. "Our friends that died in the crash would have wanted us to go on with our work."
The cause of the crash was still unknown, but divers searching the lake off Milwaukee identified a debris field Friday on the lake bottom containing much of the wreckage, said Keith Holloway, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.
Heavy equipment will be needed to raise it, Holloway said. Recovery won't take place until next week, he told the Detroit Free Press.
Police said the Cessna's flight voice recorder had also been recovered, but Holloway could not confirm that.
The patient already was prepped for surgery, with his chest cut open and his lungs exposed to the air in the operating room, when the plane crashed, killing six members of a Survival Flight team.
Officials learned late Tuesday that another set of donor organs was available.
"If he had not received a transplant in a timely fashion he would have died," said Dr. Andrew C. Chang, one of two doctors who led the surgical team.
The patient has not been told of the crash. "I'll tell him more when he can handle it," Chang said.
Chang said the man's condition is "significantly improved."
The patient, a longtime smoker, needed the transplant because of a condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, the health system said. He had been on the waiting list for a double lung transplant since November.
The patient's family, in a statement released by the health system, said it was devastated and heartbroken for the families of the six team members who died in the crash.
A chartered plane transported the new organs from an undisclosed donor hospital to Willow Run Airport near Ypsilanti, where a transplant donation specialist met the plane and carried the organs to the hospital on a Survival Flight helicopter.
"It is magnificent that this team has continued the work of our team that we lost," Dr. Robert Kelch, the health system's chief executive, said in an e-mail Friday to the health system's employees.
He noted that members of the transplant team continued to work as they dealt with the loss of their colleagues.
"This wonderful news doesn't in any way relieve the acute pain we are feeling at the loss of our dedicated Survival Flight crew," he said.
Killed in Monday's crash were cardiac surgeon Dr. Martinus Spoor, transplant donation specialist Richard Chenault II, Dr. David Ashburn, a physician-in-training in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, transplant donation specialist Richard LaPensee and pilots Dennis Hoyes and Bill Serra.
Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.