Last weekend, Birmingham Airport was the scene of a dramatic rescue, after a Cessna light aeroplane crashed on the runway, trapping two people and their invaluable cargo – a human liver – inside. The organ was being ferried between Belfast and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, when the aircraft went down.
Whilst the reason for the accident is not yet known, ‘foggy conditions’ have been cited as a contributor, if not the outright cause of the crash. Bosses at Birmingham immediately suspended all flights from the airport, causing more than 80 delays, and halting traffic on local roads.
Emergency services in the Midlands reported that a 58-year-old man, the Cessna’s pilot, was seriously injured in the crash, whilst his passenger, a younger man, sustained flash burns and a spinal injury. Remarkably, the hardy liver was unharmed, even after the plane’s wreckage caught fire.
The liver, an extremely important organ for human beings, serves to detoxify the body, and create chemicals needed in other parts of the anatomy. The liver is also the only internal organ capable of regeneration, able to repair itself even if 75% of its mass has been removed.
An air ambulance pilot who located and severed the burning Cessna’s fuel supply was applauded by officials, as his actions prevented the plane from exploding, and aided rescue teams in freeing the wounded men. Local fire commander, Jim Sinnott, praised rescue services’ “rapid and aggressive fire-fighting tactics.”
Later, the liver was successfully transplanted into a patient at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Simon Bramhall, the surgeon who performed the operation, said that the organ worked “straight away,” despite its ordeal. Doctors note that the recipient faced almost certain death without a new liver.