The Pioneering work of Dr Christaan Barnard
The twentieth century saw many first in the field of medical science. One of the most controversial and impressive was that of the first human transplant. This was performed by a Doctor Christaan Barnard who theorised that such an operation could be possible following a procedure and anti rejection drugs to stem the bodies defences. Sadly the first patient passed away some 18 days later but this was due more to the anti rejection drugs as they suppress the immune system and the patient contracted pneumonia. Who was this man who helped shape the treatment of cardiac conditions paving the way for things like TQT Studies and the like?
Barnard was born in South Africa. He soon learned the importance of heart care when one of his brothers died at the age of three in what was called “blue baby”. He also lost a sister as still born. In later life Barnard was able to successfully identify what had killed his brother (a congenital heart defect from birth). With his Mothers words that he and his brothers could do anything he attended medical school graduating with high honours.
Barnard began working on the problems that were associated with the intestines but through this work he began to see ways in which heart surgery could be performed whilst using the lungs to keep the body working. He had successful transplanted hearts into dogs before the operation and then felt ready to apply the procedure to that of a human. A suitable donor came about and Barnard offered the patient the option to give the procedure ago. The patient Washansky agreed and although the operation worked the long term effects did not. However, a gate had been opened and the heart transplant process was begun.