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Story #33 of 50 days, 50 Stories Campaign
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DATRI’s 1st International Product Transport Experience – Since the pandemic was a great learning experience and a testimony of the determination and willingness of the team to serve our patients. 

Though the donor counselling was difficult, logistics were planned, and the donor was brought to Chennai for donation. During GCSF, we learned that only femoral donation would be possible. Hence, the donor needed to be counselled again and educated about femoral donation The donor agreed to the femoral donation and on 17th August the collection happened in Chennai. This was an international transport and the product had to be transported to Germany through human courier service, a Lufthansa Cargo Company. 

Due to the pandemic, there were limited flights out of India and we were requested to hand over the product to Time:Matters in Bangalore. With different State guidelines due to the pandemic, logistics had to be planned meticulously. Our Bangalore Associate, Jeevan, reached Chennai to pick the product and handover it to Time:Matters in Bangalore by 7:45 pm on the same day. 

Meanwhile, our transplant centre team prepared the documentation requested for International transportation and Time:Matters. Dr. Lakshman from Apollo Hospital – Chennai and his team were very supportive, they helped us with multiple forms and every documentation that was requested 

Everything seemed to be going as planned, until we received a call from Bangalore at 11:30 pm on 17th August to inform us that due to a technical issue, they were unable to print the shipping bill and therefore the product would not be shipped on 18th Aug morning flight. 

This needed to be resolved as the Blood Stem Cells had to be transported and every delay results in degradation of the product. So, the case was escalated to our CFO, Ms. Claudia Rutt, who contacted the Lufthansa Chairman of the Board and we received permission to handover the product to the pilot as “special permission’”. This permission was conveyed to human courier service who requested the Lufthansa Duty Manager (Passenger flights) to assist in getting the customs clearance. It was 3:00 am when I spoke to the duty manager who informed that the customs officials won’t give a clearance until they receive an ICMR (Indian Council for Research) letter. 

So far, we have done 116 international product transportations and ICMR letter was never asked before. I tried to explain our routine to the duty manager and requested him to check with the Apheresis Centre and Transplant Centre letters along with other documents but all efforts were in vain. The plane departed an hour late (from the scheduled time) without the product.

On 18th Aug, we continued the quest to find a solution to the problem, the next flight to Germany from Bangalore was scheduled for Friday, 21st Aug. So, the product had to be cryopreserved, we contacted our hospital partners in Bangalore to check cryopreservation options. Meanwhile we also contacted the German Registry to explore other options. 

During one of the multitudes of conference calls with all concerned parties, it was decided that we would try to get the product shipped via Mumbai on 19th August, 2:30 am flight. So DATRI was requested to transport the product to Mumbai. The only flight available to Mumbai was at 4:00 pm and it was a race to get the necessary activities done as it was already noon. A new set of paperwork was done and Dr. Lakshman signed the letters again, flight ticket for Jeevan was booked, e-pass applied etc. 

After a series of checks at the Bangalore airport, Jeevan reached Mumbai and handed over the product to Time:Matters contact by 6:15 pm. Then we waited for the custom’s clearance. At 9:15 pm we received the information that the shipment had been cleared from customs and would be handed over to the Lufthansa airline staff. We breathed a sigh of relief at 11:01 pm when it was confirmed that it had been loaded and in the custody of the crew. The product finally landed in Germany on 19th Aug and was successfully handed over to the Transplant Centre. 

This donation has proven that our commitment to overcome hurdles and obstacles is stronger than the challenges. The team proved that we would go the extra mile to help and support each other. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our partners Dr. Lakshman and his team who are equally committed to DATRI’s cause! 

I would like to acknowledge the team members who made this possible Jeevan, Krishnan, Lakshmi, Rajkiran, Satnhya, Saranya, Shakthi, and Claudia.

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About the Author:

Sumati Misra, working as Head – Counselling and Transplant Centre Management. I have over 26 years of extensive and rich blend of corporate and development sector experience. I enjoy reading, watching movies and travelling. I have been with DATRI for 4 years (joined on 1st Sep 🙂 )

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