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DAVID Bennett Sr, the first human to receive a pig heart transplant, passed away on March 8, 2022.
His death came nearly two months after a seemingly successful surgery.
Who was David Bennett Sr?
David Bennett Sr, a Maryland native, was the first human to receive a groundbreaking pig heart transplant on January 7, 2022 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.
His failing heart was replaced with that of a genetically modified pig as a result of a severe heart disease.
He was once married to Norma Jean Bennett and the pair shared a son, David Bennett Jr.
According to The Washington Post, “he lived in a duplex, next door to one of his three sisters. He liked working as a handyman, cheering for the Pittsburgh Steelers and spending time with his five grandchildren and his dog, Lucky.”
The outlet also reported that on April 30, 1988, Bennett, age 23 at the time, stabbed fellow high schooler, Edward Shumaker, age 22 at the time, “repeatedly in the abdomen, chest and back.”
The attack came after Bennett found his then-wife, drinking and talking with Shumaker at a lounge in Maryland.
“Bennett was arrested in a high-speed chase and charged with intent to murder and openly carrying a concealed weapon with intent to injure, among other charges,” the outlet reported.
Following the incident, Shumaker spent the next 19 years using a wheelchair and passed away at the age of 41 in 2007.
Why did he agree to a pig heart transplant?
Bennett agreed to receive the experimental pig’s heart after being rejected from several waiting lists for a human heart due to his previous inability to follow doctors’ orders.
According to OrganDonor.gov, more than 106,000 men, women, and children are on the national transplant waiting list and 17 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant.
Bennett’s son praised the hospital for offering the experiment to his father, saying the family hoped it would help further efforts to end the organ shortage.
“We are grateful for every innovative moment, every crazy dream, every sleepless night that went into this historic effort,” his son said in a statement released by the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“We hope this story can be the beginning of hope and not the end.”
At the time, the experimental surgery – which took seven hours to complete – led doctors at the medical center to confirm the procedure showed that a heart from a genetically modified animal can work in the human body without being rejected immediately.
In a statement obtained by The Associated Press a day before the surgery, Bennett said it was either “die or do this transplant.”
“I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice.”
The FDA green-lighted the surgery under a “compassionate use” emergency authorization, as Bennett’s condition was life-threatening and no other options could help save him.
Bennett’s transplant was initially deemed successful after doctor’s revealed he was breathing on his own while being hooked up to a heart-lung machine three days post-operation.
What happened to David Bennett Sr?
According to the New York Times, Bennett passed away on Tuesday at the age of 57, two months after surgery.
It’s unclear whether his death was a result of the foreign organ.
“There was no obvious cause identified at the time of his death,” a hospital spokeswoman told the Times.
Hospital officials declined to comment further on the cause of death because physicians had yet to conduct a thorough examination.
Dr Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who performed the transplant, said the hospital’s staff was “devastated” by Bennett’s death.
“He proved to be a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end,” Dr Griffith told the outlet.
“Mr. Bennett became known by millions of people around the world for his courage and steadfast will to live.”
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