Kamaljit Singh, a veteran Quick International Courier driver in New Jersey knew his work day would be different as he headed out to pick up and deliver urgent packages on Tuesday, October 30. However, he did not expect to climb through fallen trees covered in torn electrical wires in complete darkness to collect a cord blood kit from a family in Marlboro, NJ who had just had a baby. The day before Hurricane Sandy was ravaging the East Coast, flooding countless communities and leaving millions of people without power. Once the winds calmed down, Mr. Singh received a call from one of the Quick Solutions Team--medical shipments, including cord blood kits needed to be urgently collected from hospitals in New Jersey.
As businesses were closing down due to the impact of Hurricane Sandy, many organizations could not cease their operations. Medical shipments still needed urgent handling. Among them, cord blood stem cells that had to be collected from hospitals in all affected areas on the East Coast, including evacuation sites, and delivered to the Cord Blood Registry (CBR) Lab in Tucson, Arizona. Cord blood stem cells are collected from a newborn baby's umbilical cord blood and can potentially be used in the treatment of over 75 different diseases, including leukemia, lymphoma and anemia. This highly perishable blood has to be delivered to the lab in a timely manner or risk higher chance of the stem cells not being viable.
The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy caused over 100,000 flight delays and cancellations. JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports were flooded, with dramatic photos of the airport runways under water circulating the internet. Flights from these airports were halted as the authorities worked on re-establishing conditions safe for air travel.
On Tuesday morning, following Hurricane Sandy landfall there were some 50 cord blood kits in the affected area that needed urgent delivery to the lab in Arizona. Most of them were in difficult to access areas: Manhattan and New Jersey. Some of the hospitals were evacuated and the kits were located at the evacuation sites. Quick Logistics teams were dispatching drivers and coordinating deliveries to alternate airports.
Mr. Singh left Tuesday morning from his home in Edison, NJ to collect kits from various locations. The last pick-up was to be from the home of the new parents in Marlboro, NJ. The mother, who was discharged from the hospital on that day, was advised by Quick to hold on to the valuable package. It is a standard operating procedure implemented by Quick International Courier in agreement with CBR that during natural disasters the cord blood stays with the parent. While hospitals are dealing with increased traumas and power outages, this one of a kind specimen is safest in the hands of the parents.
It was 10PM at night when Mr. Singh noticed a fallen tree blocking the street and decided to park his truck and get to the home of the new parents on foot. "The street was completely dark and I was walking with the phone GPS in my hand. There were trees laying on the ground and power lines hanging down, and the street was flooded because of a broken hydrant. It seemed pretty dangerous." Mr. Singh walked almost a mile before he finally reached the house to pick up the kit from the surprised parents. "They could not believe I made it, with the streets pitch black. But getting the packages on time is my job. That's what I do".
Kamaljit Singh has been working with the Quick International Courier since 1999 and was one of the drivers that drove urgent packages from the NYC area to Michigan and Florida after 9/11, when all the airports were closed. As a part of the Quick's team, his focus is on getting the job done, on time. The cord blood kits he picked up on Tuesday were delivered to the Philadelphia airport and reached the Lab in Tucson, just 5 hours later.
There were many similar stories as Quick's dedicated drivers successfully made their way to hospitals or their evacuation sites--with limited cell phone coverage and crossing areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Quick's Solutions Team and CBR were constantly monitoring every shipment, making contingency plans on the go. Thanks to the tireless efforts of CBR and the Quick team working around-the-clock, the first shipments of kits began to arrive in Arizona already on Tuesday night. Over the next 12 hours all kits were successfully collected and shipped from alternate airports to the Lab in Arizona.