The Story of Sim Shain: From Humble Beginnings to Saving Lives Daily

Some of the most heartbreaking news to receive is that there is a solution to the health condition you face, but it sits just out of your reach. Each day, patients, young and old, wait for the notification that they are finally at the top of the organ transplant list. Most who make it to that long-awaited day have been on the list for years, knowing that their health was deteriorating and that there was nothing they could do but wait. When they finally reach the top, and their new organ and life is just within reach, the last thing the patients or their family needs to worry about is whether the life-saving organ will have the transportation to get to them.

Sim Shain, founder of ParaFlight and Organflights.com, experienced the heartbreak of the organ transplant system early in his medical career when a teenage patient he transported frequently died while waiting for a lung transplant. He had always known that he was destined to save lives, but the death of a patient and the passing of his mentor gave him direction. He wanted to create a company to orchestrate the transportation details for organ transplants so that he could help the recipients finally begin their lives anew. 

The Runway to Transport

Growing up, Sim watched his dad save lives each day as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). He remembers being just seven years old and watching his dad run off to save someone’s world. “My dad would drop anything then, no matter what it was. He would leave our family at home. He would leave his business. He would drop everything to go save someone’s life.” From early on, Sim saw the impact that saving one life might have on countless others, and decided that he would save as many lives as he could.

Sim started his career in Emergency Medical Services at twenty years old and began saving the world, just like his dad. He worked as an EMT for almost 8 years before the attacks on September 11, 2001, and his life and those of thousands more changed dramatically. 

While serving the New York site of the 9/11 attack, Sim met the owner of a private paramedic company, Steve Zakheim, who would further solidify Sim’s future career in the organ transplant industry. Steve’s company would send paramedics wherever they were needed, including rural areas and sites overseas. Steve used his personal private jet, which was outfitted with oxygen and a stretcher, to transport patients from rural areas to receive the care they needed. Sim said Steve “recognized that there were people who just couldn’t afford to go to doctors and specialists all over the country,” and he wanted to help them in any way he could. 

Steve became a mentor and friend to Sim, inspiring him to pursue his paramedic license. However, in 2012, Steve was diagnosed with a specific strain of Leukemia directly related to his time spent at the site of the twin towers. Before he died, Steve told Sim that he wanted him to “go change the world.” And in a sense, that is exactly what Sim Shain has been working on.

Before his death, Steve introduced Sim to a camp called “Camp Simcha,” which was designed for children with cancer or medical disabilities. Here, he met a child with two already transplanted organs: his liver and kidney. At 18 years old, he needed a third transplant to save his lungs, but no center would even put him on the list because of his size and health history. Sim flew from location to location in search of life-saving news for this teen in need, and eventually got him on a waiting list. The teen was on the waitlist for two more years before he passed away. His death was the final paving stone for Sim to understand exactly how he was meant to “change the world.” Sim remembers declaring after the teen’s passing, “I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure that anybody who needs a lung or a vital organ to live is going to get one.”

And so, ParaFlight began.

Changing the world, one organ at a time

ParaFlight and Organflights.com are Sim Shain’s solutions to a major hassle within the organ transplant industry: the actual transportation. Using the app Organflights.com, Sim and his team at ParaFlight organize all the details involved in organ transplant transit, which is a much more complicated process than one might expect. 

Using the Organflights app, the ParaFlight crew will receive notifications about an organ ready for transplant. With time of the essence, ParaFlight then arranges for the aircraft and pilots, as well as ground transport via emergency vehicles of the surgical team, to the airport and the donor hospital. Once the vital organ has been procured, the team gets brought back to the airport for the flight back, and ParaFlight arranges an expeditious ride to the hospital, where hopefully, the eager organ recipient is ready and waiting for her new lease on life. All the while, ParaFlight is updating the recipient transplant center on the organ’s status, down to the time of the first incision. 

With so many people and moving parts, Sim makes sure to treat his transport team as well as possible with customized meal requests and comfortable vehicles. Sim explains that they treat the transplant teams like the heroes they are: “our organ transplant teams are like celebrities. We fly surgeons who go save lives.” And though the work is challenging with long, atypical hours and a critical urgency to perform tasks perfectly, at the end of the day, Sim and his team are so thankful to be able to save lives. “After every trip and mission that we do, we always say the same thing: thanks to you all, another life was saved.”

And saving lives each day is the name of the game for Sim Shain. Even through the potential complications and the countless details to be arranged, everything comes down to Sim Shain’s passion for preserving human life as much as possible. “There’s really not much else that I want to do because I just want to be able to save lives.”

The process for an organ transplant is both lengthy and urgent. Children and adults usually wait years to possibly receive an organ with the potential to save their lives. Sim Shain and his team at ParaFlight take care of all the planning involved in organ transit to make sure that when the time comes, and a recipient is finally alerted to a compatible organ, the only thing they need to plan is how they are going to enjoy their new life. 

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