MARSEILLES, France — Emmanuel Vitria, who set a world record by living 18 1/2 years with a transplanted heart, died early today of heart and respiratory problems, doctors said. He was 67.
Vitria died surrounded by his family at Salvator Hospital, said his doctor, Jean-Raoul Monties.
Monties was part of the team that performed the heart transplant on Nov. 27, 1968, giving Vitria the heart of Pierre Ponson, a 20-year-old sailor killed in an accident.
Vitria entered Salvator Hospital on April 27 suffering from respiratory problems.
Monties said it was not yet clear what provoked the crisis, but added, "For several months, we have thought he was at the end of his voyage."
"I was a little bit his doctor and a lot his friend," Monties added.
Vitria's transplant was the ninth in the world and the second performed in France. From then on he received checkups every two weeks, but led an active life.
He stayed in shape by exercising and swimming and, as president of the Benevolent Union of Blood Donors, at one point traveled around southern France calling for blood donations.