Deliver Your News to the World

UMHS to observe anniversary of Transplant Survival Flight team tragedy


Private employee memorial, tolling of local carillons to honor crew on June 4
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – On June 4, the University of Michigan Health System will pay tribute to the six Transplant Survival Flight crew members lost one year ago when their leased Cessna jet crashed into Lake Michigan while on an organ recovery mission.

To observe the one-year anniversary, UMHS has planned a private memorial for U-M employees, and at 5 p.m., the time of the crash, the School of Music has arranged a simultaneous bell tolling by 10 bell towers in Ann Arbor, including U-M’s Burton Memorial Carillon Tower and the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Carillon. Bells will toll for a period of six minutes, in honor of the memory of David Ashburn, Richard Chenault II, Dennis Hoyes, Ricky LaPensee, Bill Serra and Martin Spoor.

Media are invited to join the Transplant and Survival Flight teams at 5 p.m. at Burton Memorial Carillon Tower as part of the one-year anniversary ceremony. Burton Tower is located at 881 N. University in Ann Arbor.

“We are reminded every day of David, Richard, Martin, Ricky, Bill and Dennis – what they stood for, what they achieved, and what they sacrificed,” says Robert P. Kelch, M.D., U-M executive vice president for medical affairs and chief executive officer of UMHS. “We embrace those memories, and they inspire us to carry on the crew’s mission of saving lives and caring for patients selflessly, expertly and completely.”

While the tragedy dealt a painful blow to UMHS, Kelch says employees have held steadfast and remained committed to providing the best in patient care in honor of their six colleagues, remembered as heroes for their dedication to their work.
In the year since the crash:

* The U-M Transplant Center performed 343 transplants. Thirty-three heart, 20 lung, 205 kidney, 70 liver, one liver/kidney, 11 kidney/pancreas and three pancreas transplant procedures have taken place at U-M since June 4, 2007.

* U-M transplant patients experienced the “everyday miracle.” Detroiter Clifton Green was one of the many patients to receive the gift of life at U-M during this past year. When a congenital heart defect left Green near death and no donor heart could be found, doctors at the U-M Cardiovascular Center outfitted him with a new high-tech artificial heart. He was only the second person in Michigan to receive the new device, which kept him alive until a donor heart became available a month later. Today, Green, 33, is active and is even playing basketball with his young son. He’s also a part of the UMHS Michigan Difference campaign:

For lung transplant patient Allen Woodford of Ann Arbor, “every day is exciting.” Prior to his transplant surgery in March 2007, Woodford suffered from severe end-stage lung disease and emphysema. His health forced him to quit his job as a maître d’ at a restaurant in Lansing, and by 2002, he required oxygen 24 hours a day. Today, his life is very different. Now the 57-year-old’s active lifestyle includes helping his niece to care for her young son, pursing his dream of doing floral design, and taking classes at a local community college.

* Survival Flight has completed more than 1,200 medical missions. Since June 4, 2007, Survival Flight has flown more than 100 fixed-wing missions, and completed more than 1,100 ground and helicopter missions. During that time, Survival Flight has primarily sought fixed-wing services from Kalitta Air, based at Willow Run Airport, and AeroCare, based in Illinois.

* Transplant patients continue to praise the life-saving work of the Transplant Survival Flight team heroes. Lung transplant patient Casey Borkowski says he will never forget Ashburn. In fact, the 28-year-old cystic fibrosis patient frequently talks about the surgeon - who took part in his transplant surgery – during clinic visits at U-M. Borkowski, who is now healthy and an avid rugby player, says Ashburn “really knew his stuff” and was there to reassure him after his transplant surgery. Spoor and Chenault also played a role in Borkowski’s successful lung transplant on July 4, 2006, as part of his organ recovery team. Like Borkowski, Cathie Covert’s lung transplant team included Ashburn and Chenault – which she realized after hearing about last June’s tragedy. Since her transplant in July 2006, 44-year-old Covert, of Milford, says she has more energy than ever, and has returned to teaching elementary school and working at Kensington Metro Park during the summer.

* UMHS has made plans for a memorial sculpture for the medical campus. Plans are under way to commission a permanent sculpture in memory of the Transplant Survival Flight crew. Task force members from across the U-M campus – selected by U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and Kelch – are seeking conceptual sketches from a short list of artists. The task force, with input from the families of the six crew members, will then recommend an artist to create a sculpture that will be placed outside the front entrance of University Hospital on the east side of the main lobby. Inside the lobby, there will be space for people to pause and reflect, along with an explanation of the memorial and the six men who lost their lives during their mission. The task force hopes to have the memorial sculpture completed by June 2009.

* UMHS has continued to work to increase organ donation. UMHS is currently participating in a state-wide donor registry campaign in collaboration with Gift of Life, the Michigan Eye Bank, the Secretary of State, Michigan Health & Hospital Association and Henry Ford Hospital. Goals of the campaign are twofold: first, to increase the number of potential donors on the donor registry, and second, to debunk some of the common myths about being an organ donor. UMHS is encouraging its employees and members of the community to sign up on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry:

* Survival Flight won an international air rescue competition. After winning the sixth annual Air Medical Transport Conference’s critical care competition in Florida, flight nurses Michael Chesney, RN, and David Roberts, RN, recently traveled to Prague, Czech Republic, to participate in the international crew competition. After a successful performance during the first round, Chesney and Roberts advanced to the finals, where they competed against two teams from Canada and a team from Hungary. The duo’s near-flawless performance tied them for first place with the Ornge air ambulance team from Toronto.

* Robert Merion paved the way for paired organ donation. New legislation for organ donation – presented in tribute to the six members of the Transplant Survival Flight crew – was recently passed by Congress to amend the National Organ Transplant Act in an effort to provide a larger pool of potential living donors to kidney transplant patients. Along with a number of transplant surgeons and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, Robert Merion, M.D., professor of surgery, U-M Transplant Center, was recognized in the passage of legislation that allows paired organ donation, an organ matching process which will make it possible for thousands of people who wish to donate a kidney to a spouse, family member or friend, but find that they are medically incompatible, to still become living kidney donors. During his remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate when the bill was presented for final passage, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) noted Merion’s “tireless advocacy” in the effort to educate Congress on the need for paired donation.

* Survival Flight designated June 4 as its annual safety day. To remember and honor the six men who lost their lives while on an air medical mission, Survival Flight will now host its annual safety day on June 4. The seminar, held at the U-M medical campus, is designed for those who participate in air medical missions within the institution.

For complete details about the one-year anniversary memorial events, information related to last year’s tragedy, and to watch streaming video of Kelch’s remarks during the private employee memorial at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4, visit

More information about the U-M School of Music and the carillon towers is available at

Written by: Krista Hopson


This news content was configured by WebWire editorial staff. Linking is permitted.

News Release Distribution and Press Release Distribution Services Provided by WebWire.