On December 3, 1967, Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first human heart transplant. It was a groundbreaking procedure that would save countless lives. Answer these trivia questions about Barnard and the history of heart transplants.
What Patient Received the First Human Heart Transplant? Lewis Washkansky, a grocer from South Africa, 53, was the first recipient of a heart transplant in the world. A heart transplant had been successfully performed at Stanford University in Stanford, California, on a dog in 1958 but a transplant for a human had not been attempted. After receiving the transplant, Washkansky lived for 18 days. Because having the heart transplant meant Washkansky would have to take drugs to suppress the immune system in order to prevent his body from rejecting the heart, he developed double pneumonia, which caused his death. However, because Washkansky lived following the surgery, it was considered a success.
How Long Did the Surgery Take? The surgery was scheduled for nine hours and included a 30-person team. It took place in Cape Town, South Africa, at the Groote Schuur Hospital. The team was led by Dr. Barnard; however, one of his brothers also assisted the surgical team. The surgery began around 12:00 a.m. and concluded just before 6:00 a.m. It was necessary to shock Washkansky’s heart to restart it, and when he regained consciousness he was able to speak. However, his condition deteriorated over the next few weeks.
Who Were Barnard’s Longest Surviving Heart Transplant Patients?
Dorothy Fischer was the fifth patient to receive a heart transplant on April 17, 1969. She was a 40-year-old who had suffered heart damage as a child from rheumatic fever. She lived for more than 12 years following the transplant, dying on October 19, 1981, of a stroke, following complications caused by the body’s rejection of the heart.
Dirk van Zyl, who received a transplant in 1971 at age 45, was his longest living patient. He lived for 23 years, dying at age 68 in Cape Town, South Africa. His death was caused by a stroke, not by heart failure. The heart he had received during the transplant was that of a man who was multi-racial who died when he fell out of a tree. Interestingly enough, because apartheid laws were in force at this time, the multi-racial man would not have been considered a candidate for a heart transplant.
What Physician Was Successful in Performing the First U.S. Heart Transplant? Denton Cooley was working as a physician in Houston, Texas, at Baylor College of Medicine in 1968, where he performed the first heart transplant that was successful in the United States. The patient was an accountant, Everett Thomas, age 47. Thomas’ transplant was successful enough that he went home from the hospital and lived for about seven months.