Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mississippi...Believe it! - Home of the First-Ever Heart Transplant

by Pam Hillman

Several years ago, Mississippi launched a campaign called, Mississippi...Believe it! I was born and raised in Mississippi, and I didn't know about so many of the amazing events and people that have occurred in my state. As a matter of fact, I'm constantly learning new and fascinating tidbits, and each one makes me proud to be a Mississippian.

For instance, did you know...

University of Mississippi Medical Center surgeons performed the world's first human lung transplant, the first-ever heart transplant and the first-ever kidney transplant?

After serving in the U. S. Army Medical Corps in early 1944 during WWII, Dr. James Hardy, a native of Alabama, worked in Stark General Hospital in Charleston, SC. Dr. Hardy became the chair of surgery at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in Jackson, MS in 1955.

In 1963, Hardy led the team which performed the first human lung transplant at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The next year, in 1964, when patient Boyd Rush (age 68) was dying, Dr. Hardy and his team performed the first-ever heart transplant. No human heart was available and in a last-ditch effort to save their patient, the medical team transplanted the heart of a chimpanzee, genetically closest to human heart, into Mr. Rush. Sadly, Mr. Rush died after 90 minutes.

Understandably, Hardy and his team faced severe criticism for attempting the transplant, but the ground-breaking and courageous attempt opened the floodgates for the possibility of heart transplants throughout the medical profession. The bridge had been crossed and there was no return. Three years later, the world saw the first successful human-to-human heart transpd there was no return.

While I personally haven't had a family member to need a heart transplant, I've spent my share of days waiting to hear the results of heart caths, praying for good news during open heart surgery, and watching loved ones struggle after surgery the trauma of the surgery. But because of such heroic efforts of men like Dr. Hardy over 50 years ago, and the bravery of men like Boyd Rush, I've seem many loved ones, family and friends come home to their families.

As I type this, a friend who's had stents put in before is undergoing a heart cath. Good news! The doctor's didn't find any new blockages and believe a few adjustments to his medicine will solve his problems.

Thank you, Dr. Hardy. You changed the world.

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  1. Very interesting, as I am a nurse, to read this. Always thought this was done by a S. African doc. sm. Wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

  2. Very interesting, Sharon. I'd love to more about the South African doctor. Those doctors ushered in a brave new world. Bless them!