Barbara-Lee Edwards, Anchor: Sharp Memorial Hospital is celebrating a major medical milestone for two heart transplant patients. They are still alive 25 years after surgery, shattering their doctor’s expectations. News 8’s Matt Johnson is live in Kearny Mesa with how these two men were able to beat the odds. Matt?
Matt Johnson, Reporter: Barbara-Lee, 25 years ago doctors just had no idea what to expect from this relatively new procedure called a heart transplant, but inside this hotel behind me two men shared how they turned the unthinkable into success stories.
Walter Wojtyla, Heart Transplant Patient: I never thought I’d need a heart transplant.
Matt: The shirt on Walter Wojtyla says it best: 25 years of survival after a heart transplant procedure that saved his life.
Walter: If I’m here for some kind of symbol, you know, that 25 years and a person that just come out, maybe a year or so, could see that he can last for 25 years, I think that’s great.
Matt: He’s one of the men being honored by Sharp Memorial Hospital for surviving the procedure that was relatively new in 1988. For 79-year-old Billy Worth, surviving 25 years means more time with his family.
Billy Worth, Heart Transplant Patient: I got to see the children marry; I got to see my grandchildren.
Matt: Every one of these survivors in the audience has a story. For Worth, his story began at war.
Billy: I came back from Vietnam after nearly three tours and I was exposed to Agent Orange.
Matt: A heart attack led him to Sharp Memorial Hospital the same year as Wojtyla. Of the 300 heart transplant patients since 1988, they were two of the first.
Dr. Brian Jaski, cardiologist affiliated with Sharp Memorial Hospital: When these two had their heart transplants, heart transplants had only been done for 20 years anywhere in the world.
Matt: Whether it has been one year or 25, plenty patients are eager to defy the odds.
Billy: It’s the fear that cures us. There’s no reason to be afraid because you can’t change it, you can’t stop it, so why be afraid?
Matt: Now, the hospital honored a few more people inside. They praised three patients that underwent heart transplants and went on to run three half marathons in one single year. Barbara-Lee?
Barbara-Lee: Incredible stories; thanks, Matt. Now, doctors say with Sharp that on average patients survive 13 years after the procedure.