02 September-First Human Heart Transplant

Christiaan Barnard was a cardiac surgeon who was a native of South Africa. He performed the first successful heart transplant operation on December 3rd 1967. The operation ushered in a new era of life extending surgery.

Christiaan Neethling Barnard was born in Beaufort West, Cape Province, South Africa on November 8th 1922. He studied medicine at University of Cape Town Medical School and graduated in 1945. He later studied at the University of Minnesota where he was awarded a PhD in 1958. He returned to South Africa in 1958 as senior cardiothoracic surgeon at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.

For several years Barnard carried out extensive experimentation on heart transplantation in dogs. On December 3rd 1963 he performed the world’s first human heart transplant. The operation was performed on 54 year old Louis Washkansky who had incurable heart disease. The heart came from a young woman who had been fatally injured in a traffic accident.

Louis Washkansky survived for 18 days. He died of pneumonia as he was taking immunosuppressive drugs. As time went on transplant operations carried out by Barnard became more successful. In 1971 Dirk van Zyl received a new heart. He survived for over 23 years. Barnard developed rheumatoid arthritis in his hands and retired in 1983.

Christiaan Barnard who performed the first successful human heart transplant operation on December 3rd 1967, died aged 78 in the year 2001 On This Day.

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