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Updated 3:00 PM July 30, 2007
 

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Coleman: U-M transplant team leaves legacy of life

When Dr. Michael Hagan, a former emergency room physician at St. Joseph Mercy, Ann Arbor, heard about the June plane crash that killed a six-member U-M transplant team, the loss hit him on a deep, personal level.

Hagan, director of Quality Improvement at Gift of Life Michigan, spoke of how a liver transplant saved his life as he addressed a standing-room crowd gathered July 27 for a memorial service remembering the six men who died in the crash.

 “The day after the transplant, I woke up and knew I was a different person,” Hagan said. “Now each morning, I wake up and thank God, the donor families and members of the transplant teams that work to save our lives.”

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman said the June 4 tragedy serves as a somber reminder of the need to improve the organ donation process.

“Let us honor our lost colleagues by dedicating ourselves to developing new techniques and procedures for procurement and transplant, to carrying out more research and to working to raise public awareness about the importance of more organ donors,” Coleman said. “I can think of no greater way for us, as individuals and as a university, to honor them than to help extend the life of a fellow human.”

The six members of the Survival Flight crew were:
• Dr. David Ashburn, a fellow (physician-in-training) in cardiothoracic surgery
• Richard Chenault II, a donation specialist with the U-M Transplant Program
• Dennis Hoyes, a Marlin Air pilot
• Rick Lapensee, a donation specialist with the U-M Transplant Program
• Bill Serra, a Marlin Air pilot
• Dr. Martinus (Martin) Spoor, a cardiac surgeon who had been on the faculty since 2003

While members of the medical field routinely deal with life and death situations, Dr. Robert P. Kelch, executive vice president of Medical Affairs. acknowledged how the loss deeply affected the University medical community.

“What sets us apart, perhaps, is that we learn that even while we’re suffering a tremendous blow, we must continue—not tomorrow or the next day, but right now,” he said. “ Someone needs us now—and so we act.”

As news of the crash spread, Michigan residents reacted by setting a record in June for the highest number of organ donors. “That is our legacy,” Hagan said. “It will continue to live on.”

The memorial included a video on Camp Michitanki, a weeklong summer camp in Oscoda for children ages 7-16 who have received organ transplants. The camp, administered by the U-M Transplant Center, offers rock climbing, horseback riding, canoeing and basketball among its many activities.

The transplant team will leave a powerful legacy, one that Coleman said she hoped would inspire people to support organ donation efforts.

“These wonderful men will be rooted in our memory forever as part of the University of Michigan” she said. “We can never replace them … but let us leave here looking up to them and grabbing hold of the opportunities they have given us, motivated by their commitment and inspired by their love.

“Together, let’s give—and let’s live—the gift of life.”

For more information about the Transplant Team/Survival Flight tragedy, visit www.med.umich.edu/survival_flight/update. Additional information about Camp Michitanki and the U-M Transplant Center can be found at www.michigantransplant.org.

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