Tony Huesman, 51, a heart transplant recipient who lived a record 31 years with a single donated organ, died of cancer Aug. 9 in Dayton, Ohio, his heart still going strong, his widow said.
"He had diabetes and cancer," Carol Huesman said. "His heart -- believe it or not -- held out. His heart never gave up until the end, when it had to give up."
Huesman got a heart transplant at Stanford University on Aug. 30, 1978, just 11 years after the world's first heart transplant was performed in South Africa.
He became the longest-living American recipient of a single transplanted heart in 2000, when a patient who had received a transplant a year before him had to undergo a second transplant.
At his death, Huesman was listed as the world's longest survivor of a single transplanted heart both by Stanford and the Richmond, Va.-based United Network for Organ Sharing.
Born in 1957 in Ohio, Huesman was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy while in high school. His heart, attacked by a pneumonia virus, was almost four times normal size from trying to pump blood with weakened muscles.
He studied accounting at Miami University until doctors urged him to leave school in his sophomore year and rest. He later worked as marketing director at a sporting-goods store.
Huesman founded the Huesman Heart Foundation in Dayton, which seeks to reduce heart disease by educating children and offers a nursing scholarship in honor of his sister.
Huesman's sister, Linda Huesman Lamb, also was stricken with cardiomyopathy and received a heart transplant in 1983. The two were the nation's first brother and sister heart transplant recipients. She died in 1991 at age 29.