Dutch man confirmed as world’s longest-living heart transplant recipient 40 years after being given 6 months to live

Tuesday, March 05, 2024
 – Four decades after being diagnosed with a serious heart condition and given just six months to live, Bert Janssen has set a Guinness World Record as the longest-surviving transplant patient.

“I want to be an example for people,” said the Dutchman, who was 17 when he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body.

Janssen says he is proof that living a long time with a heart transplant is possible.

In 1984, the Netherlands had yet to perform its first heart transplant, so cardiologist Albert Mattart referred the teenager to Harefield Hospital in England.

The life-saving operation was carried out by transplant pioneer Magdi Yacoub.

Janssen underwent transplant surgery in June that year after a heart became available following a tragic car crash in which two young adults died.

“I consider that day more important than my birthday,” said Janssen, who is now 57, married with two sons.

“I’ve never really looked this far ahead.”

While he is fit and healthy, his heart medication causes side effects and in recent years he has had to reduce his work output.

“I still do more or less what I want (but) at a different pace,” he said.

The average life expectancy for heart patients after a transplant is 16 years, according to Janssen’s current cardiologist, Casper Eurlings.

Guinness World Records officially recognised Janssen’s achievement of living for 39 years and 100 days after receiving his transplant.

The previous record was 34 years and 359 days, set by Canadian Harold Sokyrka in 2021, according to Guinness.

Transplant patients “need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and be active. That’s what Mr. Janssen did,” Eurlings said.

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