NEW DELHI India
-- The surgeon who performed the
world’s first heart transplant, Christiaan Barnard, in Cape
Town, South Africa, in 1967, visited Kenya in 1978 and made
big news, writes Swami Anand Kul Bhushan.
a world celebrity, he addressed many meetings and gave press
interviews in Nairobi. I was fortunate to cover his visit
and meet him.
My special interest in his visit was due to my late
father, Mr. V. P. Sharma, who suffered a massive heart
attack and died in 1966, a year before Barnard performed the
first heart transplant.
In those days, the patients afflicted with heart attacks
were given medicines to enlarge their arteries and injected
with pain killers to alleviate their agony.
On reading the news about the heart transplant, it was
natural for me to wonder if my father could have survived
with a similar operation.
But this operation was very risky at that time. On 3
December 1967, Barnard transplanted the heart of
accident-victim Denise Darvall into the chest of 54-year-old
Louis Washkansky, with Washkansky regaining full
consciousness and being able to easily talk with his wife.
Barnard had informed Mr. and Mrs. Washkansky that the
operation had an 80 per cent chance of success.
Instantly, Barnard and Washkansky became global
celebrities as journalists from round the world descended on
Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital.
While Washkansky was photographed by a few journalists,
Barnard was photographed and interviewed extensively.
Unfortunately, Washkansky died 18 days later due to
Barnard’s second transplant patient, Philip Blaiberg,
whose operation was performed on 2 January 1968, was able to
go home from the hospital and lived for a year and a half.
Blaiberg’s heart was donated by Clive Haupt, a
24-year-old African, who suffered a stroke, triggering a
controversy in South African during apartheid.
Dirk van Zyl, who received a new heart in 1971, was the
longest-lived recipient, surviving over 23 years.
Thus, when the cardiac surgeon visited Kenya, he was
hailed for his pioneering achievements.
In addition to public engagements, he paid a courtesy
call on the then President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta.
It was after his visit to the State House in Nairobi,
that I caught up with him in Intercontinental Hotel where he
was staying and requested him to autograph his book,
‘Heart Attack You Don’t Have to Die’.
Opening my heart, during those few minutes, I told him
about my father’s death after a cardiac arrest.
Shortly before his visit to Kenya in 1978, the following
statement was published about his views on race relations in
"While he believes in the participation of Africans in
the political process of South Africa, he is opposed to a
one-man-one-vote system in South Africa".
In answering a hypothetical question on how he would
solve the race problem were he a "benevolent dictator in
South Africa", Barnard said in a long interview at The
"While I would abolish Social discrimination, political
discrimination would continue."