What Did We Do?

Dennis and Jenny Hacker's Sojourns in Africa

Another day, another decision

July 25, 2019


We’ve now looked at several flats that are available in Cape Town. One was very nice, but that one is owned by our friends who are returning to Switzerland due to an unfortunate business problem. We discussed a short-term rental with them, yet they have a property manager who has the prospect of a 2-year rental with a production company. We sure didn’t want to interfere with that prospect. So we decided not to go there.

Next, we looked at other properties in and around where we used to live in the Waterclub. One was available, but the owner wanted renters longer than 4 months. The flat also had a peculiar smell to it, like body odor or old smoke. Another in the Waterclub is being jackhammered to put electrical and plumbing into the concrete floors and walls. We couldn’t do that one.

Finally, Jenny decided that she was becoming more accustomed to the sounds here and that we should plan on staying here. Yippee! I called the rental agent and she was very excited that we were staying put.

What ammounts to a panorama shot from our deck.

Groote Schuur

That out of the way, we decided to go to Groote Schuur, the huge hospital complex attached to the medical school here in Cape Town. This was on our bucket list. We toured the Cape Town Heart Museum dedicated to the work of Christiaan Barnard who, as you might remember, was the first surgeon to do a heart transplant, have the patient regained consciousness and survived for any length of time. The heart was from Denise Darvall, who was mortally injured by a drunk driver. Denise and her mother were crossing a street with the light when the drunk hit them. They flew an estimated 40 feet. Denise’s mom was dead at the scene. Denise’s skull was crushed yet she was alive when taken to Casualty, as they call the ER here. She was pronounced brain dead by two different doctors. This was necessary because, at the time, organs could only be taken from the dead. Denise’s heart was beating still and her father agreed to the procedure.

The team removing Denise’s heart was headed by Christiaan’s brother. Christiaan was called for to do the final removal.

The surgery was begun at  1:00 AM and Louis Washkansky recovered about 11:00 AM. He succumbed to a lung infection 18 days later. Upon autopsy, the heart was found to be fine.

The team putting the new heart in Mr. Washkansky

Until the tour, I didn’t think of all the other people who were associated with and helped with the surgery. Here is a list:

Following this surgery, slew of surgeons globally began cardiac transplantations but none of them lived beyond a few hours. Almost all other facilities stopped doing cardiac transplantation surgery shortly after the abominable results were realized. Barnard’s second patient, Dr. Philip Blaiberg, lived 18 months! The third and fourth were successful as well. The fifth lived 17 years! Dirk van Zyl, who received a heart in 1971, lived 23 years.

Christiaan developed many cardiac surgical procedures and heart valves. His wife stitched dacron to the valves so they would not cause clots. The amount of prep work that Dr. Bernard did was amazing. In his preparation for the heart transplant, he did a kidney transplant which was successful. He bragged that he had a 100% success rate for kidney transplants. Other practice surgeries were done on dogs.

Note the Bird respirator on the right side.

We saw many, many other displays. One was full of congratulatory letters and telegrams. In the case were also letters calling him a ghoul, Satan or worse. Because this was a world changing event, all this was expected.

Christiaan is lionized in South Africa. Deservedly so. It was a great tour.


FILED IN: Travel Notes, This and That

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