52 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.
The epochal medical achievement made news headlines around the world, and brought international fame to the heart surgeon, Dr Christiaan Barnard, and thrust South Africa into global limelight.
The feat ecame a much-discussed topic and, 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!
p/s: Denise’s kidneys were also donated — to a 10-yr old boy, Jonathan Van Wyk