Special stem-cell flight in a time of COVID-19

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As part of the ‘Solidary Plane’ programme, for the first time in the region, LATAM Cargo has transported cells for a patient from Argentina. With closed-border policies worldwide and a low flight demand caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, LATAM Cargo has become an ally to support organ, tissue and stem cell transportation.

LATAM Cargo’s crew played a crucial role in successfully accomplishing this trip, which required the pilots to guard the cells in an unprecedented process during the flight from Viracopos (Campinas, Brazil) to Ezeiza (Buenos Aires).

On Friday, April 17, at 20:58 local time, the crew of a Boeing 767 started an exceptional LATAM Cargo  flight from Viracopos International Airport (Brazil) to Ministro Pistarini International Airport (Buenos Aires). This flight had a special mission: to transport cells in the airplane’s cabin. The aircraft arrived at Ezeiza at 23:44 local time with the cells guarded by part of the crew team and the hope of saving the life of a patient suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome.

Freighter aircraft are currently the only ones enjoying more international freedom of transit due to their relevance to global supply chains. Hence, the Solidary Plane programme becomes an opportunity to contribute to vital cases like this one.

After being contacted by INCUCAI, LATAM Cargo committed to transporting the stem cells. In order to accomplish this, a multidisciplinary team from LATAM Group—composed of more than 30 people—promptly planned the operation and crew training necessary for the transportation and manipulation of the stem cells.

This trip is part of the company’s Solidary Plane programme which has addressed health needs for nine years in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile.  The program facilitates the transportation of patients that require medical treatment, multidisciplinary health teams, organs, tissues, stem cells and medicine as well as medical supplies.

“In a pandemic situation, freighter flights become more important than ever, and programs such as the Solidary Plane become hope. We are facing the largest crisis in our history, but we will make every effort possible so one of our flights can provide a person with a life opportunity,” stated Luis Eduardo Melnik, LATAM Cargo’s captain, who flew the airplane carrying the stem cells.

INCUCAI is the body that promotes, regulates, co-ordinates and monitors organ, tissue and cell donation/transplant activity in Argentina.

“This pandemic is challenging all of us and working methods are changing, but, fortunately, we are being successful in providing ill patients with bone marrow transplants from foreign donors. In this case, thanks to a donor from Brazil and LATAM Cargo’s support, a patient from Argentina will be transplanted,” they stated.