On Dec. 3, 1967, surgeon Christiaan Barnard performed the first human heart transplant in Cape Town, South Africa.
The recipient, 53 year-old grocer Louis Washkansky, was dying from a prolonged heart disease. The heart came from 25-year-old Denise Darvall, who had died in a car accident the day before. Her father, Edward Darvall, agreed to donate her heart and kidneys after she was pronounced brain dead.
Washkansky’s operation began at Groote Schuur Hospital around midnight and lasted about six hours. The surgical technique Barnard utilized was created by American researchers and had been used in the first successful heart transplant in a dog.
Afterwards, Barnard and the team of surgeons started Washkansky’s new heart with an electrical shock. He was given medication to keep his immune system from rejecting the new heart, which made him vulnerable to disease.
Washkansky died of double pneumonia 18 days after the transplant, even though his new heart had functioned correctly up until then.