In the hubbub of air travel, it's easy to forget important belongings on the plane. People misplacing smartphones, briefcases, jewelry, and everything in between is the reason airline lost and found departments are buzzing 'round the clock. It's astonishing, however, that someone could actually forget to take a vital organ with them, yet that's exactly what happened on a recent Southwest flight, which was forced to turn around after someone discovered there was a live human heart on board.
A Southwest jet traveling from Seattle to Dallas on Sunday turned around over Idaho mid-flight after officials discovered that a human heart had been left on board, according to the Seattle Times. The organ was supposed to be unloaded and delivered to a local Seattle hospital following a previous flight from Sacramento, but was never taken off the plane.
In an announcement to passengers, the captain detailed the situation, and explained that they needed to get the heart back to Seattle immediately. According to at least one person on board, passengers weren't mad and the vibe was one of kindness because they were all "happy to save a life,” per the Times. However, while Southwest confirmed that it had to turn a flight around to bring back a "life-critical cargo shipment," it's unclear what its final destination was, whether it was meant for a transplant, or if any life was ever in danger. For what it's worth, a human heart can only last about four to six hours outside the body.
No Seattle area hospitals say they were involved in the shipment, and organ procurement services in the area said they only use private flights for organ transplants, per the Times reporting. However, it is possible that valves, vessels, or other parts from the heart may have been intended for a partial transplant. In any event, it's unclear how such an egregious oversight happened in the first place, or whether there will be further investigation into the matter.
And as if passengers weren't inconvenienced enough with the initial delay, they had to deplane again in Seattle and wait another five hours when an unrelated mechanical issue was discovered. But, hey, at least they didn't have to deal with any noxious dirty sock smells.
h/t Seattle Times