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this day in history 1967

First successful heart transplant

On 3rd December 1967, 53-year-old Lewis Washkansky receives the first successful heart transplant in Cape Town, South Africa. Washkansky, a grocer who suffered from chronic heart disease, received the transplant from Denise Darvall, a 25-year-old woman who was fatally injured in a car accident. Surgeon Christiaan Barnard performed the revolutionary medical operation, which was a success.

After the procedure, Washkansky was given drugs to suppress his immune system and keep his body from rejecting the heart. These drugs also left him susceptible to sickness, though, and 18 days later he died from double pneumonia. Despite the setback, Washkansky’s new heart had functioned normally until his death, and in the 1970s the development of better anti-rejection drugs made transplantation more viable.

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