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Charles Washington "An Active Life"

On Labor Day of 1982, Charles Washington suffered a massive heart attack which reduced the function of his heart 60 to 70 percent. Although he returned to work three weeks later, Mr. Washington began to experience heart failure, the inability of the heart to sufficiently pump blood through the body. He underwent bypass surgery in January, 1983, but his health continued to deteriorate rapidly and he was told he would die within months without a heart transplant.

Bud Frazier, MD, presents the “Promise Cross” to Charles Washington. Bud Frazier, MD, presents the “Promise Cross” to Charles Washington.

By March, his family had raised the money for the operation. His employer donated the company plane for his transportation to Houston. His physician volunteered to personally escort him on the trip. Mr. Washington was so ill that he required a full medical team to accompany him on the flight. He was near death when he arrived at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. Mr. Washington remained in intensive care for 17 days before a donor heart became available on March 27, the night of Easter.

As he was being rolled into the operating room, a nurse told him, "Mr. Washington, you’re getting an 18-year-old heart. What are you going to do with it?"

"I’m going to chase my wife around the room!" he proclaimed.

Mr. Washington is unlike most heart transplant patients in that he never experienced a rejection episode. Within three months he was able to leave the hospital to visit his home, and he was finally discharged in August and returned to work.

Mr. Washington began his career as a teacher of chemistry, physics and biology in Georgia, where he was honored by the Governor’s Education Board of Excellence. He later turned his talents to research, where he focused on weapons systems. He holds several patents for his work and has made significant contributions to the industry. For example, he created a uranium-based ordinance to penetrate and destroy tanks which has been used in both wars against Iraq.

Mr. Washington retired in 1999 but remained active in professional and community events. He served as a consultant to the Environmental Protection Agency on a board addressing the issues of toxic substances and legacy waste from weapons manufacturing facilities. He was also the president of the National Association of Black Chemists and remained active in the Lockheed Martin Inventors Forum.

 In 2007, Charles Washington celebrated the anniversary of his heart transplant with wife Eva and Dr. Denton Cooley.
Charles Washington with wife, Eva, and
Dr. Denton A. Cooley at the Texas Heart Institute celebration in 2007.
Washington is still teaching these days at the Carter Perrimore Academy, a preparatory high school in Quincy, Florida. Once again, he’s teaching chemistry, physics and biology.

Mr. Washington and his wife, Eva, have three children, five grandchildren and four great grandchildren. A few years ago, they lost their youngest son, who died suddenly from a massive heart attack.

Eva Washington says her husband still thinks he’s 18 years old. Mr. Washington looks forward to achieving the 25th anniversary of his heart transplant next year.

 April 12, 2011
Charles Washington at home in 2011Longest-living heart transplant recipient
recalls his life at age 74
"Charles Washington is an amazing man, and he's had an amazing life—and the fact that he is believed to be the longest-living single heart transplant survivor has little to do with it." Washington received his new heart at Texas Heart Institute in 1983, attended by Dr. Denton A. Cooley. Read the full story from The Oak Ridger newspaper.


29th Anniversary of Heart Transplant

Seventy-five-year-old retired research chemist and teacher Charles Washington, who is thought to be the longest surviving heart transplant recipient, recently marked the 29th anniversary of his transplant. During his annual check-up at the Texas Heart Institute in early April, the Oak Ridge, Tenn., resident shared some of his thoughts about his 1982 heart attack and his life over the three decades since his transplant.

Charles Washington

Charles Washington visits with his surgeon, O. H. Frazier, MD, Chief, Center for Cardiac Support, and Director, Cardiovascular Surgery Research at THI.

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