Beds, Herts & Bucks

Heart transplant surgeon: Longest living patient 'remarkable'

John McCafferty Image copyright McCafferty family
Image caption John McCafferty was told he had five years to live when he received the transplant

The surgeon who operated on the world's longest-surviving heart transplant patient has said surviving "in excess of 30 years" was "remarkable"

John McCafferty, 73, died on Tuesday, 33 years after his operation.

Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub performed Mr McCafferty's transplant at Harefield Hospital, west London, on 20 October 1982.

Sir Magdi said surgeons did not know at the time "how long patients [could] survive after transplantation".

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Mr McCafferty lived in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, but was originally from Shotts in North Lanarkshire.

He had been diagnosed at 39 with dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle.

Image caption Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub said John McCafferty showed "quite clearly that people can survive in excess of 30 years"
Image copyright RBHT/PA
Image caption John McCafferty was recognised as the world's longest surviving heart transplant patient by Guinness World Records in 2013

He was told he had five years to live when he received the transplant.

But in 2013 he was recognised as the world's longest surviving heart transplant patient by Guinness World Records.

Sir Magdi said the five-year prognosis had been estimated.

"John showed quite clearly that people can survive in excess of 30 years... so that's remarkable," Sir Magdi said.

"It shows how transplantation can give life and that's entirely due to the generosity of the British public, the donor family that is."

The British Heart Foundation said more than three-quarters of heart transplant patients lived for more than five years.

Mr McCafferty's widow Ann said the years they had together after his heart transplant were "brilliant".

But she said: "He was in pain for the last three years of his life and was taken to hospital in Milton Keynes on 27 January. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to return home."

What is a heart transplant?

  • A heart transplant is when a diseased heart is replaced by a healthy human heart from a donor
  • The operation which usually takes between four and six hours
  • In 2014/15 there were 181 heart transplants at seven hospitals around the UK
  • The first-ever successful heart transplant operation was performed in South Africa in 1967 by Prof Christiaan Neethling Barnard and a team of 30 physicians at the Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town
  • The patient, Louis Washkansky, survived for 18 days with the new heart

Source: British Heart Foundation / BBC

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