The South African doctor who performed the first heart transplant would have celebrated his birthday today. The good doctor was born on 8 November 1922. Briefly.co.za gathered a few quick facts to celebrate the medical icon's special day.
Chris Barnard was born Christiaan Neethling Barnard in Beaufort West, Western Cape. Barnard matriculated from the Beaufort West High School and went to study medicine at the University of Cape Town.
2. Early career
He did his internship and residency at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. He then wprked as a GP in Ceres. In 1951, he returned to Cape Town where he worked at the City Hospital and in the Department of Medicine at the Groote Schuur Hospital as a registrar.
3. Claim to fame
Dr. Barnard performed the world's first human-to-human heart transplant operation. The procedure occurred in the early morning hours of Sunday 3 December 1967. Louis Washkansky was the 54-year-old patient.The operation lasted approximately five hours.
4. Future transplants
Barnard and his patient received worldwide publicity. Approximately 100 transplants were performed by various doctors during 1968. However, only a third of these patients lived longer than three months. Barnard's second transplant operation was conducted on 2 January 1968, and the patient, Philip Blaiberg, survived for almost 2 years. Dirk van Zyl, who received a new heart in 1971, was the longest-lived recipient, surviving over 23 years.
5. Public life
Barnard was outspoken against the apartheid laws. He did not criticise the laws too heavily as he still wanted to travel abroad. He later stated that the the reason he never won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was probably because he was a "white South African".
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