Absence makes the heart grow fonder. But when the heart itself isn't around, that's another issue entirely, especially if it's potentially a life or death situation.
That's how the captain of a Southwest Airlines flight heading from Seattle to Dallas on Sunday treated a situation involving a heart found on board the plane. After being informed that the heart, which remained on the plane after it completed a flight from Sacramento earlier that day, the pilot realized that a hospital in Seattle was short one vital human organ.
Given the urgency of the matter, the flight was diverted back to Seattle while passengers were informed that the course change was due to the presence of the heart still tucked away in the plane's cargo hold. It was no surprise that the news shocked a few folks on board, and fortunately, no one reported complained about the inconvenience surrounding an impending delay in getting to Dallas.
"We made the decision to return to Seattle as it was absolutely necessary to deliver the shipment to its destination in the Seattle area as quickly as possible," said Southwest in a statement. “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and the safe delivery of the precious cargo we transport every day."
According to Sierra Donor Services, it turns out the heart didn't have an intended recipient, but getting it into a medical facility was still a crucial matter. The organ needed to be stored in a proper facility within 12 hours of being removed, or else it would be too unstable for a transplant. Once the heart was back in Seattle, medical personnel said it was in perfect order, especially the valves, which would be used for a surgical procedure once they were needed.
The question still remains about how the heart could have been left on board the plane. It would likely have been rather conspicuous in the cargo, as the organ was stored in a thermally-controlled container. Then the question remains about why it was on a passenger airline, as these organs usually travel by private jet with a team specializing in transporting such materials.
The recipient's family, obviously nervous over the botch travel arrangements, were totally grateful when Southwest changed its scheduling plans just in time. But for the passengers who also felt relieved about being part of a life-saving maneuver, they were further delayed due to a mechanical failure on the plane. After five additional hours of waiting, Southwest managed to make another Dallas-bound plane available.