Her Heart Was Willing, But His Body Was Weak

50 years ago, on 3 December 1967, Denise Ann Darvall of South Africa died in a car crash, and her father donated her heart to 54-yr old Louis Washkansky in the world’s first-ever human heart transplant. That brought international fame to Dr Christiaan Barnard, the heart surgeon.

Denise’s kidneys were also donated — to a 10-yr old boy, Jonathan Van Wyk.

That epoch medical achievement made headlines in the local newspapers and became a much-discussed topic.  In our primary school,  our principal even held a quiz contest based on this event.

Denise Darvall’s heart went on to beat for another 18 days in the chest of Louis Washkansky. And then the latter died after succumbing to pneumonia as a result of an immune system medically weakened to suppress the body’s rejection of the new heart.   What an irony!


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