Complexity and Time Sensitivity of Transporting Living Organ Donations

18 Apr, 2017 by  David Murphy

AT THE AIRPORT, Cynthia from Quick Specialized Healthcare Logistics watches over the kidney donated by Sherry Gluchowski in Los Angeles, waiting to board the aircraft to Chicago.

In 2012, a Good Samaritan kidney donation by a California man began a kidney chain, resulting in 30 donors giving their organs to 30 strangers on behalf of their loved ones. Orchestrated by the National Kidney Registry (NKR) and Quick International Courier, the chain required lockstep coordination over four months among 17 hospitals in 11 states. You can find out more about the kidney chain in our blog post

In most cases living organ donation takes place between two family members or close friends, one of whom needs a kidney transplant and the other who is a match for the person in need. However, not every one is able to find a match within his or her circle of family or friends. When this happens, patients can enter into a Paired Organ Exchange.

Most often a Paired Organ Exchange involves two donors and two recipients. Essentially, when a recipient is not a match with friends or family members, he or she exchanges donors with another recipient who is a match -- resulting in a successful transplant for both.

From a logistics standpoint, Paired Organ Exchanges can be quite complex. This is especially true when there is more than just one pair involved and a chain is created where Donor 1 provides a kidney to Recipient 2, Donor 2 provides a kidney to Recipient 3, Donor 3 provides a kidney to Recipient 4 and Donor 4 provides a kidney to Recipient 1.

This complexity reached unprecedented scale in what was then the largest kidney swap
resulting in 60 surgeries.

As a result, communication between hospitals and their logistics partners is key. It begins with an estimated time of recovery so that the courier can be dispatched, and the decision on whether the organ will be driven, carried on a commercial flight or charter aircraft is made. Coordination and communication are essential to providing on-time delivery of the organ to its recipient.

Quick International provided the cold chain logistics planning and transportation of all of the donor kidneys throughout the U.S. for this record breaking transplant chain. Our team worked day and night to ensure that each life-saving shipment was handled with the utmost speed, security and precision.


Each year in April, US celebrates National Donate Life Month (NDLM) aimed at encouraging Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to celebrate those that have saved lives through the gift of donation.

Learn more about how you can register to donate, contribute, or spread the word:

About David Murphy
Executive Vice President Life Science Solutions

David Murphy is a 30 year veteran of The Quick Group of Companies, holding various leadership roles in Quick's Life Science division. Over the past 8 years, David has served as Executive Vice President of Quick's Life Science... Read more.

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