The critical 50 year old patient at the University of Michigan Health System hospital got a new lease of life when he received a second set of lungs. The earlier double lung transplant operation was stopped because the plane carrying the donor lung crashed along with the doctors slated to perform the operations.
"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 the University of Michigan, said in a statement. "Our friends that died in the crash would have wanted us to go on with our work".
"Had he not received a transplant in a timely fashion, he would have died likely," Dr. Andrew Chang, one of two doctors who led the surgical team, told a news conference Friday.
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. 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.
In another hospital Dave Chrystal is waiting for a heart transplant to save his life. After six month his eager wait is over as he is to receive the heart of a 24 year old suicide victim.
In the US alone there are 96, 000 people who live through uncertainty as they wait for an organ donor, according to United Network for Organ Sharing. Even as technology improves, there is an acute shortage of donors.
A re-evaluation of organ donation procedures seeks to close the gap between donors and those seeking organs, but many doctors and hospital ethicists are concerned about issues surrounding an increasingly used procedure to curb the shortage called donation after cardiac death.
In the first donation after cardiac death organs were taken after the patient was brain dead, where there is an irreversible loss of brain activity. In these cases Blood still is circulated through the body as respiration is maintained by life support systems, preserving organs in a transplantable condition for up to several days. If the deceased was relatively young and didn't have any conditions affecting desired organs, the person is confirmed as a potential organ donor, and the family is consulted about the donation option after being told of their family members death.
Because the number of people who meet these requirements is far less than the number of people who seek organs, hospitals and organ banks are turning to lesser used procedures such as donation after cardiac death to deepen the pool of available organs. Donation after cardiac death undergoes the same procedure as brain death. Though the patient is not brain dead but the injury to the brain is so massive that patient is in a life long coma unlikely to regain back.
This has become a controversy as many people have raised an objection to it for families find it difficult to let go their loved ones. Further complicating the matter are the differing obligations of the personnel involved in the process: physicians and nurses, who have a responsibility to provide the best care for a living patient, and representatives and surgeons from an organ procurement organization, who have an obligation to find organs for as many needy people as possible.
Jennie Aungst, a nurse at Lakeland, hopes the crash brings greater awareness to organ donation. "They could be your brothers, sisters, mother's children and I just feel that people need to consider this if they haven't before because it such needed and it could be you or one of your loved ones one day that might need an organ," she said.