Short Story of Dr. Christiaan Barnard

Short Story of Dr. Christiaan Barnard

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Dr. Christiaan Barnard

The Great  South African Surgeon : Dr. Christiaan Barnard
Dr. Christiaan Barnard says - Doctors, often make that mistake. They think their job is to prolong life. But they've got it wrong, it is to give a better quality of life. 
          Dr. Christiaan Banard was one of the most famous surgeons in the history of medical science. He conducted the first human heart transplahnt operation. Dr. Banard was the son of a poor Afrikaaner preacher, Adam Barnard and Maria. He was born on November 8, 1922 in the dusty Karoo semiarid region of Beaufort in South Africa.
          Barnard matriculated from Beaufort West High School. He had an inclination towards medical science, especially cardiology, may be because one of his brothers, Abraham died young due to a heart problem. Barnard did his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MB ChB) from the University of Cape Town. Thereafter he married Aletta Louw, a nurse and moved on to Ceres in Western Cape. In 1951 he returned to Cape Town and joined the City Hosptial as Senior Resident and Medical Officer. Meanwhile he also worked as the Registrar in Groote Schuur Hospital.

          Dr. Barnard completed his Master of Medicine from Cape Town in 1953 and in the same year he finished his MD. His dissertation was titled - The Treatment of Tuberulous Meningitis. In 1956, Dr. Barnard received the Charles Adams Memorial Scholarship and the Dazian Foundation Bursary which enabled him to go to the United States for further studies. In Us, he did his Master of Science on the topic - The aortic valve problems in the fabrication and testing of a prosthetic valve. In 1958, he completed his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota on the topic - The aetiology of congenital intestinal atresia. It was in Minnepolis that he ultimately made the shift into cardio surgery and heart-lung surgery from general surgery.

          Dr. Barnard returned to Cape Town as a senior cardiothoracie surgeon and introduced open-heart surgery to South Africa. He developed a new design for artificial heart valves and began extensive experimentation on heart transplantation in dogs. On December 3, 1967, Dr. Barnard led a team of 20 surgeons in replacing the heart of Louis Washkansky, an incurably ill grocer. The replaced heart belonged to Denise Darvall who died in an automobile accident and who had the same blood group as that of Washkansky. Although the transplant was successful, the patient died after 18 days due to double pneumonia contracted after the destruction of body's immunity mechanism by drugs administered to suppress rejection of the new heart as a foreign protein.

          Neverthleless, the transplant made Dr. Barnard an instant celebrity. He won acclaim and praise all over the world and he became extremely popular. However, the fame, publicity, and adulation caused a huge strain on his marriage with Aletta Louw, the nurse who stood by him for 21 years. In 1959 they divorced. In 1970, he married Barbara Zoellner. The second marriage too ended in a divorce after 12 years. Karin Setzkorn was his third wife. The immense popularity and handsome features of Dr. Barnard ensured that there were more scandals and the one with Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida is mentioned in his autobiography, One Life. Meanwhile in 1974 he performed a unique surgery by implanting a heart in a patient's body without removing the first one. His assumption was that earlier one will start functioning if the new one is rejected. Dr. Barnard's assumption was correct. His later transplants were extremely successful. He served as the head of the cardiac unit at Groote Schuur Hospital till 1983 when he retired because of rheumatic arthritis. He then switched on to research on slowing down ageing process.

          Dr. Barnard once admitted that he had two regrets in his life. Once was when he endorsed, for a huge amount, an anti-ageing cream Glycel in 1987. The cream was later banned by the US government. This lowered the public image of Dr. Barnard. He also felt that he did not do enough to oppose the apartheid in South Africa.

          Dr. Barnard was honoured all over the world. He received over 71 fellowships, honorary degrees, awards and recognitions from various countries. This great surgeon died on September 2, 2001 at Paphos island in Cyprus due to an asthmatic attack, during a vacation. Medical Science and mankind will always remember this genius gratefully for his outstanding contributions.

 Total Words - 725