50th anniversary of the first human heart transplant

29 November 2017 | Story Pete van der Woude. Photo Supplied.

Just before 06:00 on Sunday, 3 December 1967, a new heart in the chest of Louis Washkansky was electrically shocked into action, signalling the success of the world’s first human heart transplant.

The event focused international attention on Groote Schuur Hospital and created a world-wide awareness of the expertise and abilities of its staff.

Although Professor Chris Barnard described it as “not that great an event – certainly not in the history of medicine”, it continues to attract public and professional interest half a century later.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first human heart transplant, UCT will be hosting a series of roundtable discussions, talks and presentations at Groote Schuur Hospital on 2, 3 and 4 December.

Read the event programme...

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the world’s first heart transplant. Dr Christiaan Barnard made medical history on 3 December 1967, when he and his team successfully performed the world's first human heart transplant. They transplanted the heart of 25-year-old car accident victim, Denise Darvall, into 53-year-old grocer, Louis Washkansky (who died 18 days later from pneumonia). The next month Dr Barnard performed his second heart transplant on Philip Blaiberg, who survived for nearly two years. He also gave 40-year-old Dorothy Fischer a new heart in 1969, making her the first South African woman to undergo a heart transplant. She lived for another 12 years.

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