lunes, 14 de junio de 2010


By: Felipe Argote

Cape Town, South Africa. December 3, 1967. Denise Darvall, a 25 year old girl dies in a car accident. Nearby, Wshkansky Louise, a 53 year old white man was lying on a bed of the Groote Schuur hospital, terminally ill with a heart beyond repair, added to acute diabetes. At that time Dr. Christian Barnard, born in South Africa and graduated from the University of Cape Town in 1953, give him the news he had got a heart with the necessary conditions for transplantation. His assistant was Hamilton Naki, a black man who was hired as a gardener, but little by little for his great skill has become imperative for the surgeon assistant

The long operation was a success and became the first heart transplant of a human being. The patient said he felt much better with the heart of the girl Denise Darvall. Unfortunately the patient died 18 days later of pneumonia.

A month later, on January 2, 1968, underwent the second operation to transplant a healthy heart in the body of a terminally ill patient. This time the heart belonged to Clive Haupt, a black man who died in an accident. The recipient was Phillip Blaiberg, a white man. This time the patient spent over a year and a half with the heart implanted. It happened in South Africa in the middle of the racist policy of apartheid. Hamilton Naki would say many years later that if he were out in the photo that traveled the world with news of the success of the transplant he had been put in jail.

So it was in South Africa where was performed the first heart transplant in history and developed a white man and a black one. Both placed the heart of a black man in a white body and this survived.

Bernard married several times. His first wife was Louwtjie had two children: Dirdre and Andre. Andre committed suicide because his parents' divorce. He then married Barbara Zoellner of nineteen in 1984, when Barnard had turned 62. She left him a couple of years later to marry a Portuguese businessman. Barnard later married Evelyn Entleder 24 years when he passed 65. She left him too. Finally Karen married 24 years Setzkorn and had two daughters Armin and Lara. He gave birth to Lara at seventy-four years old.

Hamilton Naki, the black assistant to Bernard in the Groote Schuur hospital was for the official records of the hospital a gardener. Naki not only contributed directly to the transplant operations, he held the position of laboratory technician researched kidney transplants, heart and liver, by special permission, while his formal position was still a gardener. He trained a large number of young surgeons for over forty years. But his salary and position in the organizational chart was a gardener and that he received his retirement pay $286 a month.

Naki was born in 1926 in the Transkei, never finished elementary school, was one of the greatest surgeons in the world but always had to work anonymously with the complicity of the authorities of the hospital but was never paid fair. Those were the days of apartheid.

At the drop of the apartheid the whole truth was known. Hamilton retired in 1991 at the age of 65 years, then changed his truck to a mobile clinic where he served for free to the poor. In 2001 he was finally recognized its merits, after ten years of having retired with a salary of a gardener. During the act of recognizing the surgeon Christian Bernard testified that he was Naki who removed the heart of Denise Darvall, the night of December 3, 1967 with the launch of the first successful experience of heart transplantation. Technically, Haki was better than me said Christian Barnard

In 2003 he was given an honorary degree of doctor of medicine at the University of Cape Town and the National Order of Mapungubwe in Bronze. He lived in a shack without running water or electricity.

Christian Barnard died that year at the age of 82. Hamilton Naki died on May 29, 2005 at the age of 79.

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