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A heart delivered by the sky: Ukraine's first wartime aeromedical evacuation

Friday, 9 June 2023, 21:50
A heart delivered by the sky: Ukraine's first wartime aeromedical evacuation
15-year-old Maksym. Photo: Ministry of Health of Ukraine

In Ukraine, a helicopter took off into the sky to save a 15-year-old boy from Mykolaiv Oblast. The helicopter was delivering a donor heart from Vinnytsia to the Kyiv Heart Institute.

This was the first aeromedical evacuation of an organ since the beginning of the full-scale war in Ukraine, the Ministry of Health reports.

The patient's name is Maksym. He is from the town of Vradiivka, in Mykolaiv Oblast.

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"In February, Maksym contracted Covid, and he started having heart problems. Doctors diagnosed dilated cardiomyopathy (myocardial disease and problems with the ventricles). The disease is incurable. The only option is a transplant," the ministry emphasised.

The teenager spent a month in intensive care. His life was saved by the family of a deceased 40-year-old woman, who consented to her organs being removed. She had been diagnosed with brain death due to a ruptured aneurysm.

"This family’s decision made it possible to save the lives of four people. Maksym is one of them," the Ministry of Health writes.

 
An aeromedical evacuation.
Photo: Ministry of Health

Thanks to modern technology, doctors were able to determine the teenager’s compatibility with the donor. However, a heart can "live" for only a few hours once removed, and it still had to be transported, prepared for surgery and transplanted into the patient.

Because Ukraine is at war, doctors are only carrying out field transplants, and Maksym's condition did not allow him to be moved, so the doctors decided on an aeromedical evacuation.

 
Transplantation of donor organs
Photo: Ministry of Health

A specialised helicopter took off, and within an hour, the donor organ had been transported from Vinnytsia to the Kyiv Heart Institute.

While Maksym was undergoing his heart transplant, three more patients in two hospitals were receiving other organs:

  • a kidney went to a 16-year-old from Poltava Oblast;
  • the liver went to a 46-year-old woman from the city of Kyiv;
  • the second kidney went to a 22-year-old man.

"All the organ transplants were successful. The patients are currently in a stable condition," the Ministry of Health reported.

Background: In Lviv, two organs, a pancreas and a kidney, were successfully transplanted at once for the first time in Ukraine.

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