Wilbert Keon, trailblazing heart surgeon, doctor and senator, dies

A world-renowned Canadian pioneer of heart surgery and former senator has died.

Dr. Wilbert Keon founded the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and in 1986 performed Canada's first artificial-heart implantation, which was revolutionary for the time.

The institute says Keon died Sunday. He was 83.

Keon was born in Sheenboro, Que., about two hours northwest of Ottawa, in 1935; he completed his undergraduate studies at Carleton University in the national capital, earned his MD from the University of Ottawa in 1961, studied experimental surgery at McGill University and trained at Harvard University.

On May 1, 1986, Keon made medical history when he inserted the Jarvik-7 artificial heart into Noella Leclair, who had suffered her first heart attack the week before, during a three-and-a-half-hour operation.

The artificial heart helped bridge Leclair, then 41, for a week until she received a human heart from a 44-year-old man who died in a car accident. She lived another 20 years.