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Longest-Surviving Heart Transplant Patient, 67, Dies

May 12, 1987|From Times Wire Services

MARSEILLES, France — Emmanuel Vitria, who 18 1/2 years ago received the heart of a young traffic accident victim and became the world's longest surviving heart transplant patient, died Monday. He was 67.

Vitria died of heart and respiratory problems at Salvator Hospital in the presence of his wife and three children, 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.

The surgery came 11 months after the first heart transplant surgery by Dr. Christiaan Barnard in South Africa.

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, Vitria at one point traveled around southern France calling for blood donations. He was awarded France's Legion of Honor in 1981.

On his longevity as a transplant recipient, Vitria once said: "It is perhaps because I have a passion for life and that I have slammed the door on death."

He told an interviewer in 1975, "I get an extra thrill out of everything I do. . . . I am the happiest man in the world."

In addition to his vitality, Vitria attributed his longevity to skillful doctors and a heart donor with characteristics exceptionally similar to his.

"That's how I live with my old chassis and my Formula One motor," he once said.

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