Editorial

Come on people, it's time for a transplant

04 December 2017 - 07:23 By The Times Editorial
It's time for a transplant, with the South African people in the role of Dr. Chris Barnard.
It's time for a transplant, with the South African people in the role of Dr. Chris Barnard.
Image: Don McKenzie. © Beaufort-West Museum/Transplant Musuem, Groote Schuur

The surgeon wielded his scalpel carefully, deftly opening the patient's chest to expose the wonky heart. Something drastic had to be done; the old heart was diseased and about to conk out.

From a dish, the doc picked up another human heart - one he'd removed from another patient moments before, a younger person who'd been declared brain-dead.

The daring young medico knew brain-dead didn't mean a total goner; there remained a flutter of life in that corpse - as there was in the ailing person on the operating table. Just put the two together.

The new heart was slipped in and clamps and stitches swiftly applied; the old heart yanked out. The cardio monitor skipped with a regular beat. Pulses everywhere raced.

History had been made, the world was enthralled, a hero was born.

It all happened 50 years ago. Chris Barnard did all of the above in Cape Town's Groote Schuur Hospital on December 3 1967. The world's first heart transplant was a success for a few days, the second for many months, the third for years.

As we remember this amazing event in our history - one that came out of a clear blue apartheid-era sky - it's tempting to see it as an enduring metaphor for our country.

In like manner, the diseased apartheid heart was eventually cut out in 1994 when the patient could no longer survive on life-support. A new, strong-beating heart took over, the world was transfixed, new heroes emerged.

Now, in 2017, think of South Africa's economy as the patient with cardiac failure and think of Jacob Zuma as the dodgy ticker. Time for a transplant, with the South African people in the role of Barnard.

Rip out the corrupt old organ, shove in a new one and get the lifeblood of commerce and industry pumping again. The time for new heroes with steady hands has come.

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