Monday, December 3, 2012

December 3: First Human Heart Transplant

On this date in History ..... 1967:

The first human heart transplant was done on South African grocer Lewis Washkansky.  The technique used by the surgeon Christiaan Barnard, educated in the Univ of Cape Town and in the U.S., had been developed by U.S. surgeons in the 1950s and was used for a successful transplant on a dog in 1958. 

The surgery only took five hours to replace Washkansky's diseased heart with one from a 25-year old woman who had died from a car accident and happened to be the same blood type. 

Drugs were given to Washkansky to suppress his immune system so his body wouldn't reject the heart, but it also left him vulnerable to disease and 18 days later, he died of double pneumonia.  In the 1970s, better immune suppression drugs were developed and by the late 1970s, patients were living up to five years with new hearts.

Rhumatoid Arthritis forced Barnard to retire early, in 1983, and he spent his years living on a 32,000 acre sheep farm and becoming a writer of textbooks and novels.

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