Turkey, plane from Italy lands for a transplant

Turkey opened its airspace to save an Italian toddler

The Turkish government allowed a plane from Italy to land in Istanbul to collect a steam cell donation that an Italian toddler needed for a transplant.

The Turkish government, in response to a special request from the Italian authorities, decided to make an exception with the closure of its airspace to Italy due to the coronavirus pandemic allowing a plane to land at the old Istanbul Atatürk airport in order to save the life of an Italian toddler, now has been known.

According to Turkish media, citing health sources, on March 14th Dr. Massimo Cardillo, head of the National Transplant Centre in Italy, sent an email to the Turkish authorities requesting help to save a sick Italian child; the message explained that after searching all over the world for a compatible donor for the toddler, who needed a stem cell transplant, the donor had been found in Turkey.

Although by then Turkey had already closed its airspace to flights from Italy due to the increase in cases of COVID-19 in that country, the Turkish Foreign and Health Ministries agreed to make an exception to the measure in order to save the child, whose donor was located in the Eurasian country through the Turkey Stem Cell Coordination Centre.

Finally, on March 31th, a private jet belonging to the Italian Air Force took off from Rome and received permission to land at the old Atatürk airport in Istanbul, where after preparing a sterilised room and testing on coronavirus to the Italian medical team as a precautionary measure, the stem cells were delivered by a team of Turkish specialists.

“We are very grateful to Turkey and the donor”

Later, the Italian medical team was able to return to Rome without incident with the valuable cargo on board the plane, and deliver it to the hospital where the toddler was admitted, in order to carry out the bone marrow transplant he needed to save his life.

Nicoletta Sacchi, director of the Italian National Registry of Bone Marrow Donors, has stressed that they will never forget Turkey’s help during these difficult times by allowing to open their airspace to save the child. “I want to convey my thanks to the donor, the main hero of this story. We are very grateful to Turkey and the donor,” Sacchi said.