James Lee Stanfilnt was an American photo journalist who traveled to Poland after the end of the Cold War working on a photo story project documenting the decline of heath care in the former satellite states following the collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union. In the course of his travels, he stumbled upon a truly beautiful story and captured a wonderful image to go along with it.


Dr. Zbigniew Religa was a remarkable Polish doctor who had performed the first ever heart transplant surgery in the Eastern European country in 1985 when he was the head of cardiovascular surgery clinic in Zabrze. Two years later, he was called upon to do the same highly difficult surgery again on a sixty-one-year-old patient whom other surgeons had turned away because of the problems posed by his advanced age.

In August 1987, a suitable graft was found, and the surgery was scheduled to take place immediately. After a grueling and profoundly difficult surgery, the remarkable doctor was witnessed by Skinflint to go above and beyond the call of duty and stayed at his patient’s side for twenty-three hours straight without going to sleep. Staff shortages and the outdated technology in the former Soviet hospital had made Dr. Religa concerned about the welfare of his patients, and therefore he decided to take on the job of his aftercare himself. As it turns out, his dedication was rewarded. His patient regained consciousness the next day and declared that he felt better than ever.

Dr. Religa went on to have a storied career in both medical research and politics. He served as the Minister for Health between the years of 2005 and 2007 and even launched his own presidential campaign. However, his glittering career in politics was cut short by an advanced case of lung disease which eventually caused his death in 2009. At his funeral, the man who he saved with the heart transplant his colleagues had judged as too risky stood at his graveside with all the other mourners.

Facebook Comments