Toward the end of April, the United States made a historical achievement. While fads surface and fade in the $3.7 trillion global wellness industry, medicine continues to look for sustainable uses in technological advancement and rarely subscribes to the ebbs and flows of trends.
Trina Glipsy is a 44-year-old woman who has been on dialysis for the past eight years while awaiting a kidney transplant. She finally received her kidney and it was delivered to her by drone. The unmanned aerial vehicle flew 2.8 miles in about 10 minutes to deliver the kidney, which was successfully transplanted. We know four out of five urgent care centers handle fracture care and the like, but how many hospitals are delivering donor organs via drone? Until now, none. It’s the first time on earth that a human organ was delivered via drone and we’re very likely to see more of that in the future.
Time and speedy transport are vital to a successful organ transplant. Naturally, the faster the organ gets from donor to transplant patient — whatever the distance — the more likely the organ will be viable and the transplant successful. However, getting an organ from point A to point B hasn’t always been the smoothest process. With 12 million trucks, locomotives, and vessels moving things across the transportation network in the United States, it seems high time that we enter another player into the mix to make things more efficient.
“Charters are too expensive, commercial aircraft is too slow and small aircraft at inconvenient hours are dangerous to transplant teams,” said Joseph Scalea, part of the surgical team that transplanted the kidney.
Not your run-of-the-mill VR hobby flight drone, this machine is a much more sophisticated piece of technology. With safety sensors and fail-safe technologies in place, it’s built to complete the task even in the face of technical failures. Even in a worst-case scenario, the drone is equipped with parachutes so an organ wouldn’t be destroyed in catastrophic malfunction.
“As a result of the outstanding collaboration among surgeons, engineers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), organ procurement specialists, pilots, nurses, and, ultimately, the patient, we were able to make a pioneering breakthrough in transplantation,” Scalea remarked.
We can assure you that no one was as happy about this moment in history as Glipsy, who now finds renewed hope in the continuing of her own story. In 2018 alone, there were nearly 114,000 people waiting for organ transplants. An unfortunate number of those waiting often don’t outlive the wait.
“I feel very fortunate, especially after watching so many people pass being on dialysis. I’m seeing a lot of people die and I’m like, ‘It’s taking so long, it might not happen for me either,” said Glipsy.
But, it did. With a historic milestone to boot.