The human heart accidentally left onboard a Dallas-bound Southwest flight was delivered undamaged to a Seattle tissue processor and was not intended to be used by a waiting patient in need of a transplant, according to reports.
The Seattle Times reported that Flight 3606 had arrived in Seattle from Sacramento, California. Someone forgot to unload the heart before the plane left for Dallas, and the captain announced over Idaho they were turning back.
Confusion about the heart's intended use arose after Southwest initially said the "life-critical cargo shipment" was meant for a hospital. No Seattle-area hospitals said they were involved and organ-procurement organizations in Washington and California said they never use commercial flights for heart transplants.
Instead, the heart was sent to a tissue processor to recover its valves for use in future procedures.
Deanna Santa of Sierra Donor Services in Sacramento said the organ-procurement organization sent the heart through a courier, who picked it up in Sacramento for shipment to Seattle.
The delay did not impair the heart's usefulness because it was received 12 hours before a 48-hour window for processing after a donor's death, Santa told the Seattle Times. The timeline for a heart used in a transplant would have been much lower.
Still, the donor's family was contacted about the delay, Santa said.
The flight took off again for Dallas after a five-hour delay.