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Transplant team braves winter storm to deliver donor lungs to patient

ST. LOUIS (KTVI) — A St. Louis man is alive thanks to an organ transplant team that persevered despite incredible odds. This team had the task of carrying a pair of lungs in very bad weather.

“It really felt like wasting minutes. It was very high stakes,” said Dr Katherine Caldwell.

Caldwell is a resident physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. She got the call on January 28 to fly to Chicago to get a lifesaving pair of lungs for one of their dying patients. Caldwell and his team only had six to eight hours to get the lungs back to Barnes.

“Basically when we got to the airport, our pilot realized the weather was too bad and we couldn’t fly our little charter plane out of Chicago,” Caldwell said. “I said, ‘Well, do bigger planes fly?’ So we decided to try and rush to Midway Airport and see if we could find a flight that would take us to St. Louis. [with] enough time.”

Caldwell’s team then asked Southwest Airlines to put them on the only flight that was leaving that morning.

“I walked up to the counter and told the ticket agent I’m a doctor, this is a set of human lungs I’m carrying for an organ transplant, and you have a flight leaving at 6:20 a.m. I have to be there,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell said she and her team then sprinted through Midway with their scrubs and with their precious cargo in tow.

“I kept thinking about how valuable what we do is and that I wouldn’t let that not happen,” Caldwell admitted.

Southwest Airlines spokesman Dan Landson sent a statement saying, “We are pleased to play a small part in the overall story and wish the patient a speedy recovery.”

“It was very stressful,” said lung transplant coordinator Beth Albertin.

She said Barnes-Jewish Hospital has one of the best lung transplant programs in the country. She was proud to report that the lungs had been delivered with a few minutes to spare.

“It just shows that we are doing whatever it takes to get the job done. I really think this evening really showed that,” Albertin said.

Barnes-Jewish Hospital staff said the recipient of the lungs is now discharged from hospital and doing well.


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Sara Adm

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