The Surgeon Who Dared
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Having established the first major heart surgery programme in Africa, he eventually became distracted by other interests until he was a mere shadow in his own department. Yet he remained in the public eye through his gifts for public speaking and as a writer. He travelled the world, published two autobiographies, wrote popular books on health for the public, particularly relating to heart disease and arthritis, and penned books on such varied subjects as the politics of apartheid in his homeland, and euthanasia. He became a well-regarded and popular columnist for several South African newspapers, and collaborated on the writing of four novels. He branched into the business world and expanded the meagre financial rewards earned from his surgical services to the South African health care system by investing in restaurants in Cape Town, establishing a game reserve in the hinterland of South Africa, and causing controversy by his role in advertising a cream that reputedly prevented wrinkling of the skin. He set up a heart research foundation and a foundation that paid for children from all over the world to travel to Cape Town for corrective open heart surgery.
This charismatic and controversial man was Chris Barnard who, by the way, also dared to carry out the world's first human heart transplant in December 1967.
Can we summarize Chris Barnard? Not very easily. He was a first-class doctor-skilled, knowledgeable, compassionate, conscientious, concerned, decisive, and wise. He was an inquiring and innovative surgeon-though famously irascible in the operating room-with a vision of the future developments in his chosen field, and the ability, judgment, and courage to play a part in contributing to those developments. He was an informative and highly entertaining speaker and raconteur, a gifted writer, farmer, restaurateur, an unofficial ambassador for his country-and a good friend.