When Bad Weather Shut Down Helicopter Flights, A Way Was Still Found To Get A Life-Saving Heart From Erlanger To Vanderbilt

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Hamilton County emergency team on Feb. 15 arranged a unique transport of a heart from Erlanger Hospital to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville to a waiting heart transplant recipient.

The weather at the time was too bad for a helicopter flight so local telecommunicators set up a plan for a police escort on the roads and interstate from one hospital to the other.

It worked and the heart recipient was overwhelmed with emotion when she learned of the extraordinary steps that were taken to provide her with the life-saving heart.

John Steurmer, who heads the local 9-1-1 agency, praised all those involved.

He said, "On February 15, 2021, Hamilton County 9-1-1 Emergency Communications District received a call for service from DCI Donor Services requesting assistance to transport a heart from Erlanger Hospital to Vanderbilt University. Organ transports of this nature are typically completed via helicopter, due to weather conditions in the Chattanooga area along with the conditions in Middle Tennessee, flying was not an option. DCI requested a police escort to ensure traffic would not be an issue for the time sensitive transport.

"Telecommunicator Jeweli Gilbride assisted by Floor Supervisor Chris Hollingsworth immediately began reaching out to Patrol Supervisors with Chattanooga Police Department and Hamilton County Sheriff Department in order to coordinate the escort.

"With both local agencies in agreement on assisting, Telecommunicator Gilbride and Floor Supervisor Hollingsworth went above and beyond the initial request by also reaching out to every county along Interstate 24 between here and Nashville for their assistance as well.

"All agencies contacted agreed to assist pending their call volumes due to the incoming inclement weather. Hamilton County Emergency Communications District received confirmation from Vanderbilt University that the Organ Transport Team arrived safely that same evening, and that the recipient of the heart was doing well.

"They commended the help and support received by the employees of Hamilton County 9-1-1 and considered it vital to the successful outcome of this event.

"The heart recipient was reportedly 'moved to tears' when she heard of the extra actions Telecommunicator Gilbride and Floor Supervisor Hollingsworth took to expedite the safe arrival of the donor heart.

"I am very proud of our team and the great work they did in this case. Their commitment to do everything possible to help those in need exemplifies our core motto of 'We Promise To Help'."

Learn how you can become an Organ Donor at https://www.donatelife.net


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