On December 3, 1967, at the Groot Schur Hospital in Cape Town (South Africa), Professor Christian Barnard performed the world’s first heart transplant for a 53-year-old patient, Luis Vashkansky, who lived another 18 days.
Vaskansky, who was on the verge of death from an incurable heart disease, received the organ of a 25-year-old woman, Denise Darwall, who was mortally wounded in a car accident. Barnard, who worked at the University of Cape Town, performed an operation based on technology developed in the United States in the 1950s, notably by surgeon Norman Shumway, who performed his first successful heart transplant at a dog at Stanford University in 1958.
After the operation, Vashkansky was prescribed medications that were supposed to reduce the activity of his immune system and exclude the possibility of rejection of a foreign organ, however, they made him defenseless against other diseases, and after 18 days Vashkansky died from bilateral pneumonia; in this case, the heart worked normally until the moment of death.
The next operation Barnard made on January 2, 1968. The patient lived with a transplanted heart for more than 19 months. On January 6, 1968, the first heart transplant was performed at Stanford University (USA) by Dr. Norman Shumway. In total, at the end of 1968, more than one hundred such operations were carried out worldwide.
However, until 1970, due to the low life expectancy of recipients, the number of heart transplants worldwide decreased to 18. The possibility of increasing the life expectancy of patients appeared due to the creation of a new generation of immunosuppressants that can effectively prevent donor organ rejection. After that, the number of operations per year exceeded one thousand, and the life expectancy of patients after transplantation began to be counted over the years. Tony Husman lived longer, who at the time of his death from cancer on August 10, 2009, lived with a strange heart for 31 years (the operation was performed at Stanford when Husman was 20 years old).
In Ukraine, the first heart transplant operation was performed by Boris Mikhailovich Todurov on March 2, 2001. The operated patient died after 11 days – from kidney and liver failure.
Pioneer of heart transplant Barnard died at the age of 79 from a heart attack while resting in Cyprus.