split image of jim ward wearing a red shirt and wearing a cape

A man who underwent open heart surgery 71 years ago has survived longer than any other patient who has had the complicated operation.

Jim Ward from Rancho Santa Margarita, California, USA, was just 11 years old when he went under the knife on 19 February 1952.

Jim, who had an extremely enlarged heart before surgery, is now recognized as the longest surviving open heart surgery patient (male), having lived 70 years and 255 days since his operation.


Born with a constricted pulmonary heart valve as a result of a congenital heart defect, Jim had to have surgery because his condition was very serious.

“I was in the hospital for over a week,” said Jim. 

“I had to sleep in the living room for a little while when I got home because I was not allowed to climb stairs.”

He was back in school just two months after his surgery and remembers having few restrictions. 

“I really don’t remember any pain,” said Jim. 

“After that I don’t remember any restrictions except to ’take it easy’ and I was not allowed to play Little League baseball until the next year.”

With a few adaptations, Jim has been able to lead a normal like just like anyone else. 


“I have a pacemaker that was installed in 2008 and I have been on blood pressure medication for over 20 years,” he said.

Today, Jim doesn’t have any limitations and does his best to remain active. 

“I keep my weight down and get lots of exercise, mostly walking & hiking but biking & swimming also,” said Jim. 

“I feel great and think I am in excellent health for my age.”

Jim says it wasn’t just he and his family that were surprised by his record-breaking accomplishment. 

His PCP and his cardiologist were also surprised by his record and proud to have helped him stay as healthy as I have.

For those struggling with heart conditions, Jim has a bit of advice to offer. 


“Just enjoy life and keep both your mind and body as active as possible,” he said. 

“It is a great honour to have this award.”

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