Heartbreaker: Christiaan Barnard and the first human heart transplant “This was something few people had ever seen, a person without a heart.”
In this new biography of Chris Barnard we not only learn about the life of South Africa's most famous surgeon, from his Beaufort West childhood through his studies locally and abroad to his prominent marriages - and divorces - but James Styan also examines the impact of the historic heart transplant on Barnard's personal life and South African society at large, where apartheid legislation often made the difficulties of medicine even more convoluted.
The role of black medical staff like Hamilton Naki is explored, as is the intense rivalry that arose between other famous heart surgeons and Barnard. How did Barnard manage to beat them all in this race of life and death? How much did his famous charisma have to do with it all? And in the light of his later years, his subsequent successes and considerable failures, what is Barnard's legacy today? Styan covers it all in this fascinating new account of a real heartbreaker.
The first patient whose life he saved called him the man with the golden hands. Religious zealots called him The Butcher of Groote Schuur. The mentor who had trained the best pioneering heart surgeons in the world, said he was the best to have ever served under him.
Christiaan Barnard would have many adventures before achieving the medical equivalent of walking on the moon. In 1960 he travelled deep behind the Iron Curtain to Moscow where he went seeking to learn from what was rumoured to be the world’s most daring transplant surgeon.
This visit followed shortly after Barnard had successfully transplanted a dog’s head in Cape Town.
Barnard courted many controversies, medical, political and personal during his lifetime. He never shied away from them. But it all came together in December 1967 when Barnard and the medical team from the underfunded and relatively unknown Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, successfully transplanted a human heart.
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