Heart of Cape Town Museum

Heart of Cape Town Museum. Photo courtesy mallix

December 3, 1967 marked one of the greatest moments in medical history – the world’s first heart transplant. A team led by Professor Christiaan Neethling Barnard performed the operation in the Charles Saint Theatre of Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital in Observatory.

Today the Heart of Cape Town Museum honours those who played a major role in a surgical feat that pushed the boundaries of science into the dawn of a new medical era. A and B theatres are the original general surgery theatres used for the first heart transplant. They remain laid out to create a fully authentic representation of the pioneering operation.

Barnard was a brilliant surgeon who commanded great respect and admiration. He was an innovative researcher, dedicated caregiver, a great South African ambassador, writer, businessman and family man whose motto was, “One life is enough, if well lived.”

For a fee of R50, an exclusive shuttle service escorts visitors from their hotels to the Heart of Cape Town Museum for a guided tour and returns them to their hotel afterwards. The tour costs R100 for South African citizens, R50 for students and R200 for international visitors. Prices exclude value-added tax of 14%. Shows start at 09h00, 11h00, 13h00 and 15h00 daily. The itinerary covers the introductory room, accident room, animal laboratory, the race to transplant the first heart, a timeline of events that led up to the operation, the donor – Denise Darvall – and a Barnard exhibit.

For a first-hand review of the experience, read Kate Turkington’s guest blog, Relive a dramatic moment of medical history.

Did you know?

The world’s first human heart transplant took place at Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital in 1967.


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