Jeffrey Richardson

Jeffrey Richardson, the first heart transplant recipient at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

On June 7, 1986, 17-year-old Jeffrey Richardson was the first to get a heart transplant at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Richardson, who had a mild form of muscular dystrophy, was diagnosed with congestive cardiomyopathy, a degenerative disease that weakens the heart muscle. Because hearts must be transplanted within four hours, the new heart was rushed from Virginia, where a 19-year-old had died in a car crash. The procedure lasted seven hours, and the two Wake Forest surgeons had never performed the procedure before. At the time, a heart transplant cost around $92,000, which would be over $200,000 today.

The procedure was the state’s eighth heart transplant ever. The first was conducted at Duke University Medical Center in April 1985. Immunosuppressants, which keep the body from rejecting the new organ, helped heart transplants become more common in the 1970s and ’80s.

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