First Heart Transplant


On December 3, 1967, 53-year-old Lewis Washkansky received a new heart via the first heart transplant surgery in history.

“Hey doc. I have been having this pain in my heart… could you just remove it for me and put a different one in there?”

“Uhhhhhhhh… okay! We’ll give it a whirl.”

The patient was an avid swimmer, weightlifter and sportsman, but his diabetic complications caused him three heart attacks – the last leaving him with congestive heart failure. Washkansky received his heart from a 25-year-old woman who was involved in a fatal car accident. He’ll be swimming laps in no time!

Surgeon Christiaan (Yes, Christiaaaaaan) Barnard, who studied in Cape Town, South Africa with the United States, conducted the nine-hour procedure. Though never been attempted, the technique used for the procedure had been studied and developed by a group of young American doctors in the 1950s. USA USA USA!

Norman Shumway, a doctor at Stanford University, had performed the first successful heart transplant… on a dog. (Sorry Rufus: we’re going to have to try this on you first.) USA!

By the 1970s, a new drug to help with the reception of newly-transplanted organs was developed. This made heart transplants a much more realistic option for others with similar ailments resulting in the need for a new heart. YAY! McDonald’s for everyone!


“Just Super-Size everything. I’m pretty sure this heart can be replaced.” (RIP Super Size menu…)

Today, heart transplanting is a widely used procedure, however, donated hearts are hard to secure. (It’s not like you can drop them off in a bin.)

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