A man who had a heart transplant in England in the 1980s has become the longest-surviving recipient.
Bert Janssen, from the Netherlands, was just 17 when he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood around the body.
His cardiologist arranged for London-based transplant pioneer Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub to perform the operation at Harefield Hospital in the capital in in June 1984.
The procedure had not been carried out yet in the Netherlands at the time.
The 57-year-old has now survived for 39 years with his donor heart, which makes him the Guinness World Record holder.
Bert Janssen, from the Netherlands, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy aged just 17, which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood around the body
Mr Janssen’s (pictured with his wife Petra and sons Ivo and Guido) cardiologist arranged for London-based transplant pioneer Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub to perform the operation at Harefield Hospital in the capital in in June 1984
The 57-year-old (pictured in Harefield Hospital in June 1984 following the transplant) has now survived for 39 years with his donor heart, outliving the UK’s previous record of 38 years
Mr Janssen said: ‘It all went very fast. Only a week after arriving at Harefield, two hearts became available from a major car accident in London.
‘I had a match with one of these and the heart was transplanted.’
Mr Janssen said the new heart allowed him to quickly ‘return to a good quality of life’, playing tennis and volleyball and securing a full-time job.
He married his wife Petra in 1996, welcomed sons Guido and Ivo in 1996 and 2000, respectively, and is now a keen air glider.
Mr Janssen added: ‘One of my proudest achievements was, along with my wife Petra and both our parents, building our own house brick by brick.’
His operation was the 107th transplant to be carried out at Harefield.
The first was carried out by Sir Magdi in 1980 and the centre has since completed thousands of transplants, with 54 conducted in 2022/23.
Dr Fernando Riesgo Gil, consultant cardiologist and lead of the heart transplantation service at Harefield Hospital, said: ‘It is fantastic news to hear that one of our early Harefield transplant patients continues to live such a full and happy life so long after his transplant.’
According to data on the NHS Blood and Transplant website, there were 7,314 adults on the active transplant waiting list in the UK as of last week, along with 248 patients under the age of 18.
Of the total, some 334 are waiting for hearts.
‘Unfortunately, many of these people will die on the waiting list because we have a shortage of organ donors in this country,’ Dr Gil warned.
‘I hope that Bert’s story serves as an encouragement to the public to consider registering as organ donors, to give the gift of life.’
Mr Janssen said he is ‘still grateful for the incredible gift’ his donor gave him and hopes his story will be an inspiration to others.
‘I could never imagine I would come this far, but nevertheless I always looked up to others who had their donor heart longer than I had,’ he said.
‘It feels like an honour to have reached this milestone, but what I think is most important is that I set a benchmark for others. It is now officially proved that it is possible to come this far while having a donor heart.
‘I assume the marker will yet move quite a bit further and I will be pleased if others will break my record in due course.’
Steve Syer, from Gloucestershire, had a heart transplant in 1984, when he was in his early forties. Just like Mr Janssen, Mr Syer also suffered from cardiomyopathy and had the procedure performed by Sir Magdi and his team Harefield Hospital
Mr Janssen has now survived longer with his heart than the UK’s previously longest survivor, who died in August 2022, 38 years after receiving a donor heart.
Steve Syer, from Gloucestershire, had a heart transplant in 1984, when he was in his early forties.
Just like Mr Janssen, Mr Syer also suffered from cardiomyopathy and had the procedure performed by Sir Magdi and his team Harefield Hospital.
The heart came from a donor who had died in a motor accident and Mr Syer committed to looking after it for the rest of his life, according to his wife Chris.
He died just after his 80th birthday following a short illness.
Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle which causes the walls of the hear chambers to become stretched, thickened or stiff.
There is no cure for the condition by lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier, exercising more and cutting back on alcohol can all help control symptoms.
Other treatments include drugs to control blood pressure, surgery to remove part of the thickened heart muscle and a pacemaker to regulate heart rhythm.
A heart transplant is recommended as a last resort.