Heart transplant, worthy of the record book. The story of the patient who has lived for 39 years with a donor heart

A patient who has lived for 39 years with a donor's heart has set a new world record and was included in the Guinness World Book, DPA reports.

The patient who has been living for 39 years with a donor's heart – Photo Archive

Bert Janssen, aged 57, is the patient who lived the longest after a heart transplant, after an operation that took place in London in the 1980s, according to Agerpres.

Originally from the Netherlands, Bert Janssen noticed flu-like symptoms when he was 17 years old. He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a condition that affects the heart's ability to pump blood around the body. He was operated on at London's Harefield Hospital in the 1980s and survived for 39 years with a donor heart.

How he got to Transplat

The cardiologist who treated Bert had connections with London's Harefield Hospital and transplant pioneer Professor Magdi Yacoub, who finally performed the operation on June 16, 1984, after the Dutch patient had turned 18. Until then, such an operation had not been carried out in the Netherlands.

Everything happened very quickly. Just a week after I arrived at Harefield Hospital, two hearts became available after a serious car accident in London. I had a match with one of the victims and the heart was transplanted. As Dr. Mattart told me 30 years later, it must have been a perfect match.”added the Dutch patient.

The transplant allowed Bert Jenssen to bounce back quickly”to a good quality of life“, to play tennis and volleyball and get a full-time job. He got married in 1996 and has two sons, born in 1996 and 2000. Bert Jenssen is currently passionate about gliding.

One of my proudest achievements is that, together with my wife and our parents, we built our own house, brick by brick“, he added.

Magdi Yacoub, pioneer in this field

The Dutch patient's operation was the 107th of its kind at London's Harefield Hospital. The first transplant performed by Magdi Yacoub was in 1980, and the London clinic has since performed thousands of transplants, of which 54 in the period 2022-2023.

Dr Fernando Riesgo Gil, Consultant Cardiologist and Head of Heart Transplantation at Harefield Hospital, said: “It is fantastic news to hear that one of our first Harefield patients continues to live such a full and happy life so long after his transplant“.

Figures from the NHS Blood and Transplant website show that 7,314 adults are currently on the active transplant waiting list in the UK, along with 248 patients who are under the age of 18. In total, 334 of these people are waiting for a compatible heart.

Unfortunately, many of these people will die while on the waiting list because there is a shortage of organ donors in this country. I hope that Bert's story will encourage the public to register as an organ donor to give the gift of life“, said the doctor Fernando Riesgo Gil.

For his part, patient Bret Janssen conveyed that he is “still grateful for the incredible gift” that his donor did to him and he hopes that his story will be a source of inspiration for other people.

Last year, the head of the Cardiovascular Surgery Clinic at the Floreasca Hospital, doctor Horaţiu Moldovan, declared that our country is facing not so much a lack of donors as a lack of recipients, because many patients with heart failure are not diagnosed. Romania exports hearts to Eurotransplant.

The first heart transplant took place in Romania in 1999. And in total, in the two centers in the country where such operations are performed, there were 100 heart transplants until the end of last year, according to the doctor quoted by Digi24.