Pilots: some of the unsung heroes in organ transplants

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— Todd Ratzlaff’s Sunday evening was winding down.

He had picked up his three children, ages 11, 14 and 15, from swim practice. They’d eaten dinner and were settling in at their Trafalgar home. It was 7 or 8 p.m.

That’s when his iPhone rang.

A few hours later, Ratzlaff was off to help save lives. He is a pilot for TxJet, a subsidiary of the Indiana Donor Network that transports life-saving organs to recipients in Indiana.

That Sunday in November, he and fellow pilot Roger Law needed to depart at 12:30 a.m. to pick up a heart and lung in Evansville. Ratzlaff rested for an hour before heading to the TxJet hangar at the Indianapolis International Airport, a more leisurely time frame than usual.

Indiana Donor Network’s pilots often receive calls just two hours ahead of departure, which gives Ratzlaff 15 minutes to get ready, 45 minutes to drive to Indy and an hour to prepare the Cessna CJ3 for flight.

When duty calls, he goes. Ratzlaff has abandoned a cart full of groceries, snuck out of a movie theater mid-film and left amidst many family gatherings since starting his job at TxJet in April.

“You get the phone call, no matter what you’re doing you just drop it and go to the airport. I have babysitters on standby. I have a change of clothes in a locker in here with the shower in case I’m mowing the lawn,” Ratzlaff said.



About the Author:

Corey Bryant serves as Director of Communications for The Alliance.
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