HOUSTON (KIAH) For the first time, a veteran has received a heart transplant at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Surgeons at the Houston VA performed the life-saving surgery on Air Force Veteran John Graves in January.

“We are thrilled here at the VA, because we’ve done our first heart transplant,” DeBakey VA Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Program Medical Director Dr. Savitri Fedson said. “We’re building along the long history of transplant, both in liver and kidney, but finally here last month we were able to do our first heart transplantation here on site at our VA.”

It’s not uncommon for Veterans Affairs doctors to arrange or even perform heart transplants, but it’s relatively rare for the complex procedures to happen on VA grounds.

“We are actually only the second that does it in-house,” Fedson said. “The other ones actually do it at their sister affiliations. So we’re very fortunate here to have everything within sort of the four walls of this institution.”