When doctors out to retrieve a human heart for a recent transplant operation in Louisville, they carried with them a red plastic picnic cooler. It wasn't for their lunch.

"We needed something that would hold ice and keep the heart cool while we transported it," explains Dr. Laman A. Gray Jr., the head of Jewish Hospital's transplant team. So a member of the team went to a local department store and spent $30 for the ice chest, made by Gott Corp., of Winfield, Kans.

It was a remarkable new use for a product normally deployed as a beer cooler on hot summer afternoons. According to Gott, which had sales of $45 million last year, the cooler has become popular for transporting skin, heart, liver, and kidney transplants. Rather than cashing in on the trend, however, Gott is interested in extending opportunities to provide ice chests to nonprofit hospitals. "Any cooler they want for a transplant operation, they can have," says Bernard Denker, marketing services manager.