Pilots Help Leads to Transplant - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Pilots Help Leads to Transplant

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Emergency transport teams are familiar with spur-of-the-moment medical trips --- but this week, a pilot with no medical background dropped what he was doing for a part in saving a life.

Tioga High School Junior Bree Hanson received the call she had been waiting for: a new heart was available.

Jennifer Kleen tells us about the staff at Minot Aero Center --- pilots who closed the 600 mile gap between a girl and her heart.

The journey to a new heart started long before take off --- but the last connection from Tioga to Rochester was smooth sailing thanks to a little help from the skies.

(Derek Peterson, Minot Aero Center Pilot) "I got a call from my boss and he asked if I had anything going."

Tioga High School Junior Bree Hanson waited for a new heart for more than a year.

When the call finally came, Minot Aero Center Manager Doug Bodine was among the stream of calls that followed.

(Derek Peterson, Minot Aero Center Pilot) "About ten minutes later he said you have to go to Tioga and you have to get to Rochester in four hours."

The team made a plan on the fly.

It wasn't until mid-way to Tioga that Pilot Peterson was told the reason for the flight.

(Derek Peterson, Minot Aerocenter Pilot) "I didn't realize the transplant patient was going to be that young. And it was pretty emotional because she was saying good bye to her friends and her family, her mom came with us. I tried to make her as comfortable as possible and tried to fly as smooth as I could. But she's an amazing little girl. About 20 minutes into the flight she was asking me questions, how the airplane works. It seemed like a normal flight at that point. She wasn't worried about what was going to happen to her."

The new heart was on the clock.

When asked if this flight felt different because there was a life depending on him, Peterson said that's true of every flight.

(Derek Peterson, Minot Aerocenter Pilot) "There always kind of is when you're a pilot. You sit at the end of the runway and go to take off, your mind goes to the safety of the flight. Not only are you responsible for your life but other people's lives."

With a tail-wind, the group touched down in Rochester just two-and-a-half hours later.

(Derek Peterson, Minot Aerocenter Pilot) "I wrote a special note in my log books so I'll remember her."

The road to recovery stretches out before her, but Bree's path to clear skies is touching hearts along the way.

In Minot, Jennifer Kleen, KX News.

Bree is still sedated following the heart transplant, but her Mom says that was according to plan and the surgery went well.

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