Rick Hawkins one of many successful heart transplant patients at McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center
The Associated Press
Health and Medicine
Jan 11, 2014
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - James L. Hill was 31 when he had a heart transplant at McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center in January 1984, the hospital's 27th heart transplant patient at the time.
At age 61, Hill, of Richmond, last Tuesday celebrated 30 years of living with a transplanted heart, making him one of the longest-living heart transplant survivors in the United States.
"I feel great," Hill said at a program at McGuire recognizing him and marking 33 years the veterans hospital has had a heart transplant program.
"I just thank God for the doctors who did the surgery and the nurses who put up with me, and my wife," said Hill. Hill's wife, Vickie, and their children and grandchildren were with them at the program.
The first human heart transplant in the world was done in December 1967 by Dr. Christiaan Barnard in Cape Town, South Africa.
In May 1968, Dr. Richard R. Lower of the Medical College of Virginia did the first human heart transplant in Virginia.
Dr. Szabolcs Szentpetery, who did Hill's surgery and who started the heart transplant program at McGuire, trained with Lower.
"It was one of those things that was love at first sight," Szentpetery said, referring to getting into transplant medicine after serving in Vietnam.
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