Transplant liver saved

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The Independent Online
A WOMAN was recovering last night from a successful liver transplant operation hours after the organ was retrieved from the submerged wreckage of a light aircraft, writes Tim Kelsey.

The aircraft ferrying the liver in a sealed container from Birmingham to Edinburgh ditched in 20 feet of water in the Firth of Forth, after its engine failed.

Royal Navy divers retrieved the container from the wreckage and police rushed it to the hospital early yesterday, where doctors were waiting to operate on the patient, a woman in her 30s

One of the divers, Spike Hughes, said: 'The guy that recovered it said he'd seen the containers on Casualty (A BBC Television series) - he's a big fan of Casualty and basically he knew what he was looking for.

'It was a kind of freezer box. Although we were told the description was green, it was actually pink, but it was quite apparent which was the container once he entered the fuselage.

'Luckily the weather was quite good as well. If it had been poor, it would been very hard to get out to the aeroplane.' The box was intact, with its seals unbroken.

Surgeons had been anxious at the delay to the transplant operation and worried that the organ might have deteriorated during the crash and its hour-long immersion in the lagoon.

'Had there been any evidence of injury to the liver, the operation would have been cancelled until another donor became available,' Lothian health board said.

The pilot and a passenger scrambled ashore after the aircraft crashed and were treated for shock at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

It was at the same hospital that the woman was awaiting her transplant which was completed after six hours without complications. 'The liver is performing well despite the accident,' a spokeswoman said.