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First Private Jet Bone Marrow Transfer - Hualien, Taiwan

During the peak of the COVID pandemic, Taiwan's borders were shut, commercial flights were grounded, and the only means to transport critical cargo was via private jets.

On the 24th April 2020, Kestrel Aero received a case for an urgent bone marrow transfer. The donor was in Hualien, Taiwan and the recipient was in Singapore. Due to the recipient’s deteriorating condition, the transfer was urgent. This was the first time the bone marrow donor programme would transport bone marrow via private jet as it’s usually done via commercial.

One of our staff volunteered to get the necessary training to handle the bone marrow flight. Here’s a recount of his experience.

I attended training at the bone marrow donor programme to handle the equipment and paperwork for the transfer. I learnt how to set up the container, the coolant and how to regulate and monitor the temperature. Once my training was complete. I collected the required documents, my personal protective equipment and was briefed on how the exchange would take place at the airport.

On the day of the flight , 24th April 2020, I boarded the Gulfstream G150 at Seletar Airport and was on my way to Hualien Taiwan for the exchange. During the four-and-a-half-hour flight, I set up the container and donned my PPE. We descended through the clouds into a grey and rainy Hualien.

After landing, the aircraft parked near the terminal. I disembarked and was met by several representatives of the airport and some news crews. I was ushered to a section of the terminal where the Taiwanese team awaited me with the bone marrow. I greeted them and we signed documents for the exchange. The press took some pictures before I was quickly ushered back to the aircraft, where the Captain took my temperature before boarding.

Once I was on board, I decontaminated myself and removed my PPE. The next thing to be done was to record the temperature of the bone marrow and record it in the log. As the jet flew back to Singapore, I recorded the temperature every hour and had to ensure it was stored between 4 to 8 degrees Celsius. We were delayed due to a thunderstorm over Seletar airport but after a five-hour flight, we arrived back in Seletar where an ambulance and representatives of the patient awaited the vital cargo I was carrying. I cleared immigration, ensuring the bone marrow was not exposed to any X-rays and continued on my way to the hospital. There I handed over the bone marrow to the receiving doctor, after finishing the paperwork.

Despite a delay to land in Seletar Airport due to a thunderstorm, our mission to Hualien, Taiwan for the bone marrow transfer was a success. It was truly an eyeopening experience for us as well as our staff who volunteered.

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