YOU (South Africa)
THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
17 APRIL 1969 FIRST SA WOMAN UNDERGOES A HEART TRANSPLANT
Forty-year-old DOROTHY FISCHER became the first South African woman to undergo a heart transplant on this day.
The operation was done by celebrated South African cardiac (heart) surgeon DR CHRISTIAAN BARNARD. He performed the first human heart transplant on 3 December 1967 in Cape Town.
Dorothy went on to live another 12-and-a-half years after the procedure and for many years was the world’s longest surviving heart transplant recipient.
Dr Barnard’s other patient, Dirk van Zyl, lived for 23 years after his heart transplant.
The success of Dorothy’s operation confirmed to the medical profession that although the body may sometimes reject the donor heart or the immune system (the cells in our bodies that fight off infection) could attack the new organ, heart transplants in fact did work.
Dorothy ultimately died from what Dr Barnard described as complications from “chronic rejection” of the transplanted organ.
“She lived her larger-than-life existence for more than 12 years, a woman in love with life and unafraid,” Dr Barnard, who died in 2001, said of his patient.