BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A former patient at UAB Hospital has defeated the odds and is now a Guinness World Record holder.

Seth Wharton, 44, is celebrating over 31 years since he had heart surgery back in 1990, making him the longest survivor of an artificial double heart-valve replacement.

“I am just so thankful that God spared my life and for the role that UAB played in that,” Wharton said in a statement shared by UAB. “I am living proof that you can have a full life after this procedure, and I hope people can find comfort in that.”

Wharton’s heart problems began just four days after he was born when doctors in Maryland discovered he had an enlarged heart, according to a press release from UAB. By the age of 13, when he received his treatment at UAB, Wharton had three open-heart surgeries, six cardiac catheterizations, five blood clots and two heart valve replacements.

His family is said to have been worried about Wharton not living a normal life after the procedure, but just a year after the surgery, Wharton earned his black belt in karate.

“To live this long after a double heart-valve replacement is a remarkable outcome for Mr. Wharton,” said Dr. James Davies, director of the UAB Cardiovascular Institute and the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery. “Cases like Mr. Wharton’s are the reason our cardiothoracic surgeons work to provide the best possible care to each of our patients. We are happy to hear that he is doing well.”

Wharton now lives in Maryland with his wife and four children and is a hospice chaplain at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center of Western Maryland, something he says allows him to help others going through tough times.

“In my role as a hospice chaplain, I hope to use my story to help others make it through similar experiences,” Wharton said. “We never thought that I would have the life I have today, and when I get the chance to share my experience with others like me, I wish to give them hope for the future.”