On 5 November 1985, Professor Zbigniew Religa performed the first successful heart transplant in Poland. The operation took place at the Silesian Centre for Heart Diseases (then the Regional Cardiology Centre) in Zabrze.
It was there in 1985 that Zbigniew Religa performed Poland’s first successful heart transplant. This enormous achievement was due not only to Zbigniew Religa’s skill and professionalism, but also it required particular courage and determination. The professor himself recalled for a long time what a difficult task he had set himself. In the 1980s, the chances of such an operation being successful were only 50 per cent. There was a shortage of properly trained personnel. Religa admitted in an interview that in the entire clinic he was the only qualified person trained to perform this procedure. For 95 per cent of the team, cardiac surgery was something new.
The beginning of transplantation was difficult, and there were ethical concerns among the doctors. The first successful transplant operation was performed by Dr Joseph E. Murray, who had a successful kidney transplant in 1954. The first heart transplant attempt was performed in 1967 by Dr Christiaan Nethling Barnard in Cape Town, but the patient died shortly afterwards. Barnard was successful a year later. The pioneers of heart transplantation on Polish soil were Jan Moll and Antoni Dziatkowiak, who operated in Lodz in 1969.