First successful dead heart transplant gives hope for future

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SYDNEY, Australia -- A change of heart doesn't come easy, but doctors in Australia are hoping to change that.

We're talking heart about 'dead heart' transplants.

Researchers at Saint Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, revived hearts that had stopped beating for up to 20 minutes.

Peter MacDonald, Medical Director for St. Vincent Heart Transplant Unit, says, "We've removed blood from the donor to prime the machine. We then take the heart out. We fuse the heart on the machine, we warm it up. When we warm it up, the heart starts to beat."

After monitoring the heart in a special box for up to four hours, doctors say they can then tell if the heart will be good for this kind of transplant.

For normal heart transplants, a heart is kept beating on a brain-dead patient who is on life support.

One of the first two patients to receive this 'dead heart' transplant says he's happy to get his life back in rhythm.

Transplant patient Jan Damen says, "It's a wild thing to get your head around that your heart's going, and that a stranger, someone you don't know, part of them is now inside of you. I'm privileged for it, it's an amazing thing."

After these successful procedures, doctors say they may see a rise in donors.