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Surgeon runs half a mile through a marathon to collect the liver for the transplant patient

The driver had been unable to get through the thousands of runners taking part in the Dietz & Watson Philadelphia Half Marathon in November.

Surgeon runs half a mile through a marathon to collect the liver for the transplant patient
Image Source: Getty Images/ER Productions Limited

Transporting an organ for surgery is a crucial and time-sensitive task that requires careful planning, coordination and proper execution. It is vital to keep organs such as hearts, livers and kidneys at a specific temperature and condition to maintain their viability until they can be transplanted into the recipient. Every minute counts and any delay or mishap during transportation can affect the success of the transplant and the patient's survival. In a recent incident, the van driver transporting a human liver for a transplant surgery was making good time from New York to Philadelphia. But his progress was halted by thousands of runners participating in the Dietz & Watson Philadelphia Half Marathon, per Anchorage Daily News.



It posed a severe threat to the patient's life. But the situation was saved by Jefferson transplant surgeon Adam Bodzin who sprinted through the runners wearing athletic shoes and teal-colored hospital scrubs to collect the organ packed in ice. After carrying the sealed box across the street, dodging a few curious runners along the way, Dr. Adam Bodzin caught a ride back to the hospital with a nearby police officer. The transplant surgery was successful and the patient made a full recovery three months later. The reason why the driver was unable to make it through the race, despite attempting to for over an hour and a half, remains unclear, but this put the organ at an increased risk of deterioration.

According to David G. Wilson, the city's deputy managing director for events, representatives from Jefferson's were informed by city officials about emergency access points on the route for the half-marathon, 8-kilometer event and marathon scheduled for November 19 and 20. Additionally, they provided the hospital with emergency contact information in case of any issues. He said, "We were not aware of any issues with access to the hospitals for last year’s race."


The intricacies of Philadelphia's maze of one-way streets, half-blocks and diagonals can be challenging for even the most experienced drivers, let alone an out-of-town driver transporting an organ under time pressure. In his state of growing anxiety, the driver stumbled upon police officers at a barricade who pointed him towards an access point, as reported by the surgeon Bodzin who kept in contact with him over the phone.

Despite driving a van equipped with emergency lights and sirens, the courier was unable to get through the access point, which left him feeling terrible, according to the physician. The driver was hired by the Gift of Life Donor Program, a nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating organ donation for transplants in the Philadelphia area. Although Rick Hasz, the organization's president and CEO, did not have information about the driver's difficulties, he commended Bodzin for going above and beyond to ensure the success of the surgery. Hasz said, "Dr. Bodzin’s quick action demonstrated his commitment to honoring the selfless generosity of all donors and their families and gives hope to everyone waiting for a second chance at life."


Charles Rowe, a resident of Port Richmond, had been waiting for a liver transplant for 15 months due to complications from hepatitis C. As the 66-year-old lay on a stretcher at the hospital before the surgery, he was unaware that his transplant was delayed due to the organ's transportation issues. He said, "The next thing I know, they said he was going to go get it. I said, ‘Omigosh!’" After the surgery, Rowe learned the entire story and expressed his gratitude to the surgeon, calling him a hero. He recalled, "He said ‘No, you’re the hero.'" Through the crowd of runners on Lombard Street and another block to South Street, Bodzin made his way from the hospital entrance near 11th and Chestnut Streets. Although he cannot recall the exact duration of his journey, he appreciated the ride back to the hospital from the police. 

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