Adventist Review Online | Surgeon Who Transplanted a Baboon’s Heart Into a Human Infant Dead at 76

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Leonard Bailey performed the landmark surgery at Loma Linda in 1984.

Leonard Bailey, the renowned Loma Linda University Health surgeon who garnered international media attention in 1984 for transplanting a baboon’s heart into a human infant known as “Baby Fae,” died on May 12, 2019, at the age of 76 following a battle with cancer.

Bailey’s pioneering and controversial procedure became one of 1984’s biggest news stories, drawing the daily attention of national news networks to a case in which the patient died 21 days later. He went on to transplant hearts in 376 infants and became an authority on congenital heart surgery and a consultant to physicians around the world.

  • Pediatric surgeon Leonard Bailey in 1989, with some of the children who have benefited from the life-saving heart-transplant surgery he performed hundreds of times. [Photo: Loma Linda University Health News]
  • Pediatric surgeon Leonard Bailey regularly addressed the news media over the three weeks after Baby Fae’s surgery. The baboon heart transplant was one of the biggest news stories of 1984. [Photo: Loma Linda University Health News]
  • Leonard Bailey, MD, and his team perform surgery on “Baby Fae” in October of 1984. It became one of the world’s biggest news stories of the year. [Photo: Loma Linda University Health]

His work also propelled Loma Linda University Health to become the world’s leading pediatric heart transplant center and led to innovations that enable surgeons to repair certain complex congenital heart defects instead of patients having to undergo a transplant.

Bailey served as a distinguished professor of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery and pediatrics at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and surgeon-in-chief at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. He served at Loma Linda University Health for a total of 42 years.

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