Asia’s longest-surviving heart-transplant patient yesterday celebrated the 30th anniversary of her surgery at the hospital in Taipei where she received her new heart.

Lee Hsiu-ying (李秀英), 53, said that 30 years ago, she had a flu- triggered heart muscle disease and was rushed to Cheng Hsin General Hospital, which is known for its heart surgery expertise.

Learning that a transplant might be the only way to save her life, Lee’s father signed a surgery consent form, and on Feb. 4, 1991, a team led by cardiologist Wei Jeng (魏崢) performed the surgery.

Photo: CNA

Since the surgery, she has had to take medication to reduce her immune system’s ability to reject the transplanted organ, Lee said.

Over the past three decades, she has also had two types of cancer, but has never given up on life, she said.

“I can’t fail the expectations of the person who gave me my new life,” she said.

Wei said that he hoped Lee would outlive the longest-surviving heart transplant recipient in the world, who lived for 33 years following the surgery.

The survival rate for heart transplant patients is 70 to 75 percent after five years, falling to 50 percent after 10 years and 35 percent after 20 years, Wei said.

Over his decades as a cardiologist, Wei said the greatest challenge in his career has not been the surgeries, but the scarcity of donor hearts.

A total of 218 people are on the waiting list for heart transplants in Taiwan, according to the Taipei-based Taiwan Organ Registry and Sharing Center.

Only three people have received new hearts so far this year, its data showed.

Since its first heart transplant surgery in July 1988, Cheng Hsin General Hospital had conducted 537 such transplants as of the end of last month, hospital data showed.

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