The longest surviving heart transplant patient has gone to rest 33 years after his life-saving, world record-setting operation.

In October 1982, John McCafferty from Buckinghamshire was told shortly after receiving transplant at Harefield Hospital in west London, United Kingdom, that he only had five years to live.

But he proved them wrong, spending decades with his wife and being awarded by the Guinness World Records in December 2013 as the world’s longest surviving patient of heart transplant.

"The last 30 years we had together were brilliant. We've travelled the world,” recalled his wife, Ann.

McCafferty died on Tuesday at age 73 at Milton Keynes Hospital. He was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy when he was 39-years-old, a condition that results in the scarring of the heart wall as well as muscle damage that weakens and enlarges the organ.

The heart transplant, conducted by surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub, was effective long enough for McCafferty to live a full life. Ann said her husband took part in the British Transplant Games and even spent their golden wedding anniversary with her last October.

“The idea that I would live to see my 70s was inconceivable. Yet here I am,” McCafferty said after being presented with the Guinness certificate at Harefield, where he continued his therapy.

"My advice is always to be hopeful, to look ahead with a positive mind, and, of course, to follow the expert medical advice,” he added.

McCafferty surpassed the previous survival record of 30 years held by American Tony Huesman, who lived 11 months and 10 days after his heart transplant. Huesman passed away in 2009.

A spokesperson for the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust expressed sadness over the man’s passing and thanked him for his dedication as a public governor of the trust and an organ donation advocate.

“John was an inspiration to others and epitomized the life-changing nature of transplantation,” she said.

The first successful heart transplant procedure was carried out in 1967 in Cape Town, South Africa, by Professor Christiaan Neethling Barnard along with 30 doctors. The patient, Louis Washkansky, survived for only 18 days.

In a viral video in January, 15-year-old Trevor Sullivan woke up from his heart transplant and tearfully said he can breathe again. His case and many others spark organ donation awareness campaigns everywhere, with many companies and organizations becoming more and more vocal about the cause.

Photo : Army Medicine | Flickr

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