Mark Landau dies at 59; he and his wife believed to be first couple to have heart transplants

Mark Landau, who with his wife, Sandra, were believed to be the first married couple to have had heart transplants, has died. He was 59.

Landau, who lived in Ladera Ranch in Orange County, received a second heart transplant Dec. 17, 2007. He never regained his health and died May 2 at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center after a series of infections, his wife said. The couple were married 36 years.

Mark Landau was born in the Bronx, N.Y., on Feb. 12, 1950. He and his wife owned a variety store in suburban New York. It was severely damaged in a flood, forcing them into bankruptcy and onto welfare and food stamps. After moving to Orange County in 1988, Mark found a job as a paint store manager, and Sandra sold shoes at Macy's.

During a bout with the flu, doctors told Mark he needed a heart transplant. They put him on the waiting list and said he had 15 months to live. His health gradually deteriorated, but he received his new heart during the 16th month, on April 15, 1997, which he celebrated as his second birthday.

A man who prided himself on being able to take care of himself and his family, Landau returned to work at the paint store part time after three months, much earlier than most transplant patients, and was back full time a couple of months later.

Angry at life before the transplant, Landau became much more optimistic afterward. "I realize it's not worth it to get aggravated," he told The Times in 2004. "Perfection is in the imperfect mind."

Sandra Landau received her transplant 6 1/2 years later. The operation was performed by the same doctor at the same hospital, Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

During the Landaus' recovery, each would prepare the dozens of pills the other had to take every day to battle rejection, build muscle, provide vitamins and fight the side effects of other pills.

The couple were accorded star status at the annual holiday gatherings of Cedars' transplant patients.

"They had never done a husband and wife," Sandra Landau said. "We were the first in the world."

Mark would often talk to patients at Cedars who were on the transplant list or waiting to get on, trying to encourage them and help them prepare for the surgery.

Mark needed the second transplant because of congestive heart failure. "I think he was shocked," Sandra said, "but he knew he wasn't feeling well."

In typical fashion, he continued working until about three days before his transplant. After the surgery, he never returned to his job.

Besides his wife, Landau is survived by a son, Larry, of Mission Viejo; a daughter, Sarah Chapman, of Kodiak, Alaska; and a grandson. He also is survived by a brother, Louis Jay Landau of Anaheim.