Medical Transport earns high praise for organ sharing effort.
When fragile donated organs are on the move between hospitals and airports, lives hang in the balance and time is critical. Medical Transport, the ambulance arm of Sentara, displayed its depth of resources and commitment to service on a busy day in May as patients across Virginia and the country waited.
“With MTI’s help we saved 14 people’s lives that day,” wrote the transplant coordinator for LifeNet Health, Drew Shunk. “We had two 7-organ donors within a 24-hour time span and utilized over 15 ambulances.” One of them was a teenager who died from brain damage, a tragic death that resulted in healthy organs and tissues for many other people.
Shunk commended the EMTs who met surgical teams at airports in Norfolk, Richmond and Charlottesville, got them safely to hospitals to recover organs and then safely back to airports on ‘hot runs’ with lights and sirens for chartered flights to distant cities. He also praised MTI dispatchers who coordinated those evolutions and kept LifeNet Health up to date throughout the day and night.
“Without Medical Transport, LLC, it would be impossible to have such an effective and smooth process,” Shunk concluded in his email.
But that’s only part of the story. From May 2nd through the 7th, Medical Transport performed 36 organ-related trips throughout Virginia, compared to a monthly average of half-a-dozen.
“We were stretched and challenged,” recalls Andy McMahan, MTI operations manager in Richmond. “We’re blessed to have the resources to respond to requests like this.” On organ runs, standard two-person crews are often split up to drive two ‘trucks’ in order to maximize efficiency.
“It’s a real sense of purpose,” McMahan says. “We’re respectful of the donors and families but it’s also an exciting time because we know someone is going to get a second chance.”
“I think we all realize how precious time is,” says MTI senior dispatcher Aimee Moore, who was on duty for that first rush of organ-related activity. “Sometimes we get so busy we might not have time to stop and think about it.”
She thought about it in June when an EMT in Charlottesville climbed out of bed at 2:00 AM to meet an organ recovery team at the airport for a run to UVA Medical Center. On the way to the airport, a deer darted out of the dark, smashing a front fender and headlight and leaving the vehicle unsafe. “When that happened, we had to pull the regular crew on duty that night,” Moore recalls. “There was no time to call anyone else.”
MTI dispatch in Virginia Beach is a busy place. In addition to handling 80+ ambulances from Virginia Beach to Petersburg and Richmond, Charlottesville, Blacksburg and Roanoke, northern Virginia and Harrisonburg, the team dispatches the neonatal critical care ambulances for Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters and takes after-hours calls for Sentara Home Care Services. Until a recent reorganization, they also dispatched the Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance.
“It’s definitely a team effort,” says Aimee Moore.
“Sit and digest ALL of the lives that were touched and enriched by your professionalism, competency and dedication to excellence,” Andy McMahan wrote to his team. “…All of you perform these acts every single day and no one ever knows what you have done,” he continued, “But I know. And every one of your peers knows. Because that’s just what we do. Every day. Thank you.”