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Flight turns back after human heart found aboard

December 17, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email


In his brief message to passengers, the flight captain got straight to the point: a human heart had been found aboard and the plane would have to turn back immediately.

Southwest flight WN 3606 from Seattle to Dallas was well underway when a stray human heart was discovered. The captain said it had been left behind – and it was presumably needed by someone right away.

The New York Times reported that confusion spread among the 140 passengers aboard the plane, the general feeling being that the organ must be needed quickly for a transplant operation.

It’s not the sort of thing an absent-minded passenger might carelessly leave behind.

“Heart transplants aren’t something you throw in a Walmart cooler and put on a plane,” a doctor aboard the flight told the paper.

The Times quoted an emailed statement from Southwest Airlines:

“We learned of a life-critical cargo shipment onboard the aircraft that was intended to stay in Seattle for delivery to a local hospital. Therefore, we made the decision to return to Seattle to ensure the shipment was delivered to its destination within the window of time allotted by our cargo customer.”

The heart, it turned out, was being conveyed in the cargo section of the plane, rather than, say, left on a seat or in an overhead locker. It had been flown from Sacramento where a medical courier was to have picked it up, but it was mistakenly left on the plane as it headed to Dallas.

The organ was not intended for a transplant but its valves and tissues were to be stored for future surgical procedures. The quick-thinking captain’s decision to turn back meant the heart was delivered to the clinic in time and in good condition for use.

Written by Peter Needham

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