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Friday April 19, 2024

Dutchman sets Guinness world record for longest-surviving transplant patient

Aged 57 years now outliving all predictions for his life, Bert Janssen was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy at the age of 17

By Web Desk
March 05, 2024
Bert Janssen and his wife Petra, with the framed certificate from the Guinness Book of Records, stating that he is the longest-living patient with a donor heart in the world. — Jeroen Kuit
Bert Janssen and his wife Petra, with the framed certificate from the 'Guinness Book of Records', stating that he is the longest-living patient with a donor heart in the world. — Jeroen Kuit

Ever wonder about the extraordinary life journey people who receive heart transplants take? 

We present to you today the incredible tale of Bert Janssen, a living example of the opportunities presented by the field of medical progress.

Bert Janssen, who was once given only six months to live after receiving a heart transplant, has grabbed the Guinness World Records as the longest-surviving recipient of a heart transplant. 

Aged 57 years now, he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy at the age of 17.

When Janssen arrived at Harefield Hospital in England in 1984, heart transplantation was still in its infancy in the Netherlands. The procedure, carried out by the well-known transplant pioneer Magdi Yacoub, changed Janssen's life's course and was a turning point in medical history of the country.

"I consider that day more important than my birthday," shares Janssen, a married father of two and avid glider pilot. Despite difficulties and modifications along the way because of side effects of medication, his story bears witness to the enormous advancements in transplant treatment.

Janssen's story defies accepted knowledge about the prognosis for survival of heart transplant patients, shining a light of hope. 

According to Casper Eurlings, his current cardiologist, "the average life expectancy for heart patients post-transplant is 16 years." Nevertheless, Janssen has outlived all predictions; 39 years and 100 days have elapsed since the life-saving surgery, according to official records.

Thinking back on his accomplishment, Janssen says, "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."

Acknowledging the significance of a healthy lifestyle, Eurlings said, "Transplant patients need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and be active. That's what Mr Janssen did."

Sir Magdi Yacoub, the architect of Janssen's life-altering operation, extends gratitude to the resilient patient. However, Janssen, in his characteristic humility, insists, "But it's really me who should be thanking him."

Janssen's remarkable journey, originating with the 107th transplant at Harefield Hospital, stands as a testament to the possibilities within modern medicine.