Monday, Sep 24, 2018
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UM hospital transplants continue after crash


DETROIT - A male patient at a University of Michigan hospital remained in critical condition Wednesday awaiting a double lung transplant two days after a plane crashed, killing six members of a Survival Flight team and destroying potentially lifesaving donor organs intended for him.

Hospital officials would release no information about the patient other than that he was in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

Dr. Jeffrey Punch, transplant director for the university's medical school, would not say how the patient or his family got the news of the crash but did say that all organ transplant recipients are told about "dry runs."

"We honestly warn people it's not a transplant until it's a transplant," Dr. Punch said. "We know the recipient might not make it until the next [organ] comes around."

The patient was prepped for surgery when the operation was aborted Monday evening.

Dr. Punch said organ transplants have to be timed very tightly because the transplant team doesn't know if a transplant is possible until surgeons actually look at the organs.

Organ transplant surgeries at the hospital were not suspended following the plane crash, and transplant flight crews have performed five transports since then, said university spokesman Denise Landis.

Killed in the crash were cardiac surgeon Dr. Martinus "Martin" Spoor; transplant donation specialist Richard Chenault II; Dr. David Ashburn, 35, a physician-in-training in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery; transplant donation specialist, Richard LaPensee; and pilots Dennis Hoyes and Bill Serra.

The Cessna that crashed was out of service for some time this spring while undergoing its mandated overhaul, Ms. Landis said. She said a second plane now is being used for long-distance flights. Helicopters perform shorter transports.

The university's hospital has a multiyear contract worth about $500,000 with Marlin Air under which the company is to provide two planes and five pilots, as well as needed mechanics. Peter Forster, chief administrator for the hospital's emergency department, said that all aircraft used by Survival Flight are licensed as Michigan ambulances. The hospital has worked with Marlin Air for about 20 years.

Investigators were still unable to find major pieces of the wreckage. Divers were called off due to high waves on Lake Michigan, National Transportation Safety Board investigator John Brannen said. Smaller pieces of the plane have been found, but investigators still want to find the voice data recorder.

Mr. Brannen expected the search to continue at least through the end of the week.

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