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Heart to Heart

Lawrence Bush
December 3, 2017

Louis Washkansky, a Lithuanian Jew who emigrated to South Africa as a child in 1922, received the first human heart transplant in the world on this date in 1967. Washkansky, 53, a grocer and sportsman, had suffered three heart attacks and had no alternative treatment. The surgical team, in Cape Town, was led by Dr. Christian Barnard. Washkansky lived for 18 more days before succumbing to double pneumonia.

In response to a radio news report about organ rejection: “If he thinks I am giving up on this new heart, he’s meshuge.” —Louis Washkansky, Day 7 after surgery

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.