Dr. Zbigniew Religa monitors his patient’s vitals after a 23 hour long heart transplant surgery, 1987
Amidst a tangle of wires Dr. Zbigniew Religa anxiously watches a monitor to see how his patient responds after a heart transplant. In the lower right corner, you can see one of his colleagues who helped him with the surgery fallen asleep. The surgery lasted for 23 hours. Dr. Religa was a pioneer of heart transplantation in Poland, and even though the surgery was considered borderline impossible at the time, he took the chance, and the operation was entirely successful. The patient was Tadeusz Żytkiewicz, who died in 2017 – 30 years since the operation, outliving the man who gave him a new heart.
James Stanfield took this photo in 1987 while covering Poland’s failing and outdated free healthcare system that was reaching a state of national crisis in the 1980s. The photograph was selected as the photo of 1987 by the ‘National Geographic’ and was listed among the 100 most important photos in history.