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Plane With Donated Heart Grounded

September 13, 2001

SEATTLE (AP) _ A chartered airplane carrying a donor heart was intercepted because of the nation’s commercial flight ban, but a helicopter flew the organ to Seattle just in time for surgery.

The Federal Aviation Administration had approved Wednesday’s flight despite the flight ban following Tuesday’s terrorism, but the military was uninformed due to ``miscommunication,″ said Jill Steinhaus, a spokeswoman for LifeCenter Northwest, the organ-procurement agency that chartered the plane.

The chartered plane was flying the heart from a crash victim in Anchorage, Alaska, when a Navy F-16 fighter and a Canadian military jet forced the plane to land in Bellingham, about 80 miles short of its destination.

The organ was transferred to a helicopter to finish its journey.

A heart can last about eight hours outside the body, and six hours had elapsed when the donor organ reached the operating room at the University of Washington Medical Center. The surgery was performed in 56 minutes.

``We had an excellent heart to transplant. The surgery went very, very well,″ said Dr. Gabriel Aldea, the hospital’s chief of adult cardiac surgery.

Last year, doctors had refused to put patient Brian Cortez, 21, on a transplant waiting list. Cortez, who is deaf, developmentally disabled and mildly schizophrenic, had been frightened, communicated poorly and sometimes fought with nurses.

His former teacher, Ted Karanson, and his mother, Gabriele Cortez, threatened to sue the university. Doctors relented in June after Karanson took over as Cortez’s caretaker because his disabled mother could not care for him.

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On the Net:

University of Washington Medical Center: http://www.washington.edu/medical

LifeCenter Northwest: http://www.lcnw.org

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