February is National Heart Month

February is National Heart Month and what better example of your heart is St Valentines Day. But  we also have in February Donor Day and the one of the most common organ transplants is the Heart followed by the lungs, kidney and liver.


The first human heart transplant was carried out on December 3 by a South African surgeon called Christiaan Barnard in Cape Town. The patient survived for 18 days. However, Dr Barnard’s second patient a month later lived for nearly two years


The first heart transplant in the UK was carried out at the National Heart Hospital in London on 3 May 1968. It was the world’s tenth heart transplant. Surgeon Donald Ross was funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) for 20 years from 1962 onwards. He also pioneered improvements in heart valve surgery, supported by the BHF. But this first UK patient only survived for 45 days and the patients who received transplants soon afterwards didn’t do any better.


Following more research, Sir Terence English went on to perform the UK’s first successful UK heart transplant at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire in 1979. The patient received his transplant on August 18 and lived for more than five years afterwards. Sir Terence also performed two more successful heart transplants at Papworth in 1979. Sir Terence had been inspired by the early transplant pioneers – he changed his career direction from cardiology to heart surgery when he worked as a junior doctor with a team that included Donald Ross. The British Heart Foundation went on to fund a research unit at Papworth that helped to make advances in heart transplant medicine.


John McCafferty received a heart transplant at Harefield Hospital in London, after being diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy at the age of 39 in 1982. He was the UK’s longest surviving heart transplant patient at the time of his death in 2016, age 73.


The first successful paediatric heart transplant took place at Columbia Hospital in New York. The recipient was aged four in 1984. He went on to have a second transplant at the age of 10, and he survived until 2006.

In 1987 a four months old little girl had a transplant at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. She is now now 32and says: “I had viral dilated cardiomyopathy and my only chance of survival was a heart transplant. At the time there were no known babies in the UK where this had been successful.” She has since competed in the Transplant Games several times, but had a setback in 2014 when she became seriously ill. She says: “I have been unable to work since then, and had to stop athletics. But now I am on the way up again, and am going back to the gym.” In October 2017 Kaylee celebrated 30 years since her transplant with other transplant patients, by walking over Newcastle’s Millennium Bridge promoting organ donation.



Since then it has been onwards and upwards in not only funding but research and successful transplants and one of the top transplant centres is in the North East, The Freeman Hospital, in Newcastle.


Happy Heart Month.



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