- South Africa made history back in 1967 when a man, Hamilton Naki, from the rural village Eastern Cape participated in the first heart transplant at the Grootte Schuur hospital in Cape Town
- Naki was born in the rural Idutywa and moved to Cape Town’s Langa township before landing a job at the University of Cape Town as a gardener
- His destiny changed when he was roped in by the surgical faculty team to help anaesthetise the animals before meeting Chris Barnard’s team
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Following a number of reports speculating on the role Hamilton Naki played during the first heart transplant that was conducted in South Africa in 1967 at Grotte Schuur Hospital, Briefly News brings you a history piece on this man.
Naki was born in the rural part of the Eastern Cape now known as Idutywa back in 1926. Because he was yearning for greener pastures, he moved to Cape Town and settled down with his family in Langa township.
Who is Hamilton Naki and his medical background
According to the Wikipedia page, Naki commuted from Langa township to work at the University of Cape Town as a gardener. He specifically focused on ensuring the tennis courts are well manicured.
It is mentioned that in 1954, he began his work with Robert Goetz in the surgical faculty where he helped with anaesthesia as they looked after animals. However, his life changed when Dr Christian Barnard invited him to work in the laboratory as an assistant.
He was later appointed as the principal assistant to the surgeon. When Barnard’s cardiac research crew moved out of the surgical lab, Naki helped develop the heterotopic heart transplantation ideas. In the 70s, the Eastern Cape-born Naki left Barnard’s team to return to the surgical laboratory where he focused on liver transplants.
Was Hamilton Naki part of the crew that successfully completed the first heart transplant
Africa Check reports that Naki was not allowed to enter the surgical room because he lacked medical qualifications and that was unethical.
Marius Barnard and Dr Terry O'Donovan removed the heart of the first donor, Denise Darvall, which Dr Christiaan Barnard then transplanted into Louis Washkansky, thus achieving a world-first - reportedly without Naki's help.
Former President Thabo Mbeki honours Hamilton Naki in 2002
Following his stay with the medical team at the university, Naki was honoured by former President Thabo Mbeki in 2002 and awarded an Order of Mapungubwe. Mbeki also handed him an Honorary Master of Science in Medicine degree through the University of Cpe Town a year later.
Hamilton Naki celebrated in a film, Hidden Heart
The Lancet published an article on the well-travelled Naki and suggests that in the post-apartheid era, media publications reported that Naki was as responsible for the success of the sensational operation as Barnard.
He sadly passed away in 2005 in Langa at the age of 78 but the website mentions that a number of obituaries erroneously attributed a leading surgical role to him in the pioneering transplantation. Hidden Heart illuminates the contributions of Barnard and Naki while exploring issues of racism and injustice.
History post: Cyril Ramaphosa looks at 60 years of apartheid South Africa
In another history piece, Briefly News reported that South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has looked back at the old republic which was ruled by the minority as the country marked 60 years since the formation of apartheid.
Ramaphosa was speaking in his weekly letter where he said sixty years ago, on 31 May 1961, apartheid South Africa became a republic.
Apartheid South Africa was declared a republic six decades ago and the declaration was to the detriment of nearly 90% of the country’s population, the African National Congress president has said in his weekly letter.
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