Sunday, January 08, 2012

Naples couple hopes to bring organ donor awareness with Cape-to-Cape 16,000-mile flight

Lexey Swall
Chris McLaughlin checks the fuel levels in his Cessna 172 Hawk XP airplane at Naples Municipal Airport. He and his wife Corrine McLaughlin will set out on a journey to Cape Horn in South America to raise awareness and money for organ donation, a cause that is close to their hearts. Chris McLaughlin underwent a liver transplant in 2010 after the doctors gave him two weeks to live if he didn't have one. The trip will return them to Cape Cod in Massachusetts and will take a about 160 hours to complete.

Trip began on Nantucket in December, will take couple to Cape Horn

An illness and recovery gave Chris and Corrine McLaughlin a very interesting way to promote organ donor awareness. In December, the husband and wife embarked on a 16,000 mile flight from Cape Cod to Cape Horn. According to, the plan is to fly along the coast, stopping to refuel (the plane's tank only allows for five hours of flying time) as they hop from island to island.

The idea came to Chris, a commercial pilot after being diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2009, then undergoing a liver transplant in 2010.  During the time it took Chris to recuperate, he came up with the idea of making the 16,000 round trip from Cape to Cape--all in hopes of raising awareness and funds for organ donation. reports the Naples couple landed in their hometown in Florida after leaving Nantucket last month. They plan to take off today heading farther south until they reach their ultimate destination, then it's back up the coast to Cape Cod.  In all, the McLaughlin's expect the trip to take two months.

Read the story at here. Visit here to learn more about the flight or to make a donation.

A flight from Cape Cod to Cape Horn. In a four-seat Cessna. Call it the trip of a lifetime.

Or, more accurately, call it the trip of someone else's lifetime.

That's because if everything goes according to Chris and Corrine McLaughlin's plans, their journey won't only be an adventure tale they'll tell for years to come, it will also raise awareness and money for organ donation, a cause that's close to the couple's heart.

"We're just going to try to get people to think about it and have some fun," Chris McLaughlin said.

In 2009, Chris McLaughlin was diagnosed with hepatitis C; the illness is believed to be related to exposure Chris, now 47, had in childhood. After the diagnosis, Chris McLaughlin successfully managed the illness with medication — or so he thought. But on Valentine's Day 2010, he collapsed.

The McLaughlins were living in London at the time, and he began to receive care at local hospitals. It soon was clear he would need a liver transplant, and he was taken to King's College Hospital, where he spent two months in intensive care, often lapsing in and out of a coma.

Corrine McLaughlin recalled being told her husband only had two weeks to live. Then, on the final day of those two weeks, the doctors brought the couple some good news: A liver was available.

After the transplant, Chris McLaughlin struggled to regain his health. The 6-foot-7-inch McLaughlin saw his weight drop to 130 pounds. Three months after the surgery, he was gaunt, his eyes sunken.

"It was pretty gruesome," he said.

Chris McLaughlin indulged in a fair amount of self-pity after the surgery, he said. But he also began to cook up ways to get excited for the future, too. One of those ways was the idea of what he calls "a crazy flight" across South America.

Before his illness, Chris McLaughlin had been a pilot for British Airways, flying 747s. Corrine McLaughlin is a private pilot and also worked for British Airways as a purser. Together, they own a 1978 Cessna Skyhawk, a four-seater, one-engine plane. Between the two, the skills and the tools for such a trip seemed to be in place.

Now, all they needed was a plan.

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