Special help for an organ transplant victim

Friday, September 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Although airline flights are slowly getting back to normal, they were at a stand still Wednesday. This caused problems for patients waiting on desperately needed organ transplants.

The News on Six's Heather Brooker talked with a Tulsa family who knows the importance of that medical network. There are thousands of people each year who wait on matching organ donors in order to survive. And you can imagine how hard it would be if that key to life never came. 8-year-old CJ Tineo is taking life one breath at a time.

Since he was 5 months old, his father says he's been in and out of surgeries for heart valve transplants. Luis Tineo, "For us it has been hard. Because we know that he has to depend on other people to donate the tissue in order for him to survive." But the tragedy on the east coast almost prevented some children like CJ from receiving much needed organ donations.

Doctor Richard Ranne says a Tulsa baby died on Wednesday from a brain aneurysm. And the parents wanted to donate the child's organs.” They agreed to donate their child's organs which can help up to 5 other children throughout the Midwest." Donated heart valves usually go to the "cryolife" lab outside of Atlanta, Georgia where they're frozen, studied and used again. But the heart must reach the lab within 4 hours of the last heartbeat or cells will start to die-and it's rendered worthless for recipients. In order for the valves to survive, and in turn save lives, they would have to be flown to the "cryolife" lab in Atlanta.

The only problem was no planes were flying into or out of Tulsa International Airport. All flights were at a stand still. So doctor Ranne and his staff used their resources to find a way to save the heart. "Due to the stress on our national security there would be no way possible at that time to fly to transport the heart." Finally they called the governors office for help. The governor then called the commissioner for the Department of Public Safety who then contacted the FAA. "Within 30 minutes we were notified that indeed we could have the donation picked up and they would make a special trip with the Highway Patrol using their twin engine plane to deliver the plane to Atlanta, Georgia."

The FAA allowed a medical emergency flight to save the heart. Now 3 lives will be saved, including someone like CJ Tineo.

Doctor Ranne says there is a great need for children's organs. That's why he and his staff fought so hard to save these heart valves. And although they recognize the reason behind shutting down flights, he says they had to do whatever they could to make sure no one else lost their life because of this tragedy.