Today in History: The first Human Heart Transplant in History Performed
By Toby Friedman
Fifty-four years ago today, surgeon Christiaan Barnard performed the first-ever human heart transplant in Cape Town, South Africa. Barnard transplanted the heart of a twenty-five-year-old woman, fatally injured in a car accident, into a fifty-three-year-old man suffering from chronic heart disease. The patient died 18 days later from a lung infection. His new heart, however, continued to function normally until his death.
Three days later on December 6, 1967, at Maimonides Hospital in Boro Park, Adrian Kantrowitz performed the world’s first pediatric heart transplant. The infant’s new heart stopped beating after seven hours and could not be restarted.
While heart transplantation has become very successful, finding appropriate donors is extremely difficult. Currently, about 3,500 people in the U.S. are waiting for a heart, and many will wait more than six months. But some might die before a heart becomes available to them.