CHENNAI: Forget being on time. An Air India plane took off early from Bangalore and made it to Chennai almost 15 minutes ahead of schedule, to bring a cadaver heart to its waiting recipient, on Wednesday.
This is particularly praiseworthy, given that the pilot of AI 264 was flying almost non-stop from Male to Thiruvananthapuram, then to Bangalore and finally to Chennai.
“Normally, the plane leaves at 3.30 pm and arrives in Chennai at 4.30 pm. But given the hurry today, the pilot had passengers board early and there was push-back at 3.22 pm itself,” said an Air India spokesperson.
As the heart was harvested in Bangalore at 1.30 pm, it needed to reach the donor within four hours, making every minute saved, vital.
This is the first time a cadaver heart has crossed state lines, particularly by air. A few years ago, a liver was brought by road and transplanted, but it has not been attempted for hearts before.
Recently, a liver was airlifted from Chennai to Coimbatore and another organ vice-versa, making a strong case for organ transport by commercial flights.
It may be recalled that when the liver was being taken to Kilpauk Medical College Hospital, the organ and the doctors were made to wait for 45 minutes after checking in, as Jet Airways stuck to its schedule.
Not so with the Maharaja. “The journey was particularly fast and a team from Air India was waiting to receive the doctors with the heart and help them hurry through the arrival formalities,” said the spokesperson.
The plane entered Chennai airspace a little after 4 pm and landed eleven minutes later. The pilot taxied into the bay by 4.16 pm and the heart had the distinction of being the first living thing off the aircraft.
“A separate bus was organised to take the doctors and the organ to Gate No. 6, which is otherwise used only for special movement and VIPs using their own aircraft,” said an airport source.
Despite the ambulance from Fortis Malar Hospital, where the organ is being transplanted into a 40-year-old recipient, waiting at the airport, security red tape undid the time saved during the flight.
“As the organ was being brought to the VIP gate, the security personnel created some trouble seeking paperwork, before eventually allowing them to get to the ambulance. When they did get out, they found that the ambulance was waiting at the wrong gate, leading to further delay,” said an AAI source.
Twenty minutes later, the organ sped through the green corridor created and reached the hospital in under eight minutes.