Aitch, Family & Kids, Life

Prof Chris Barnard’s Farewell

At the airport yesterday I saw a new book on Professor Chris Barnard. It’s fifty years since the world’s first heart transplant and the famous surgeon and playboy is in the news again.

A while ago I had found Aitch’s 1983 diary . Her entries to record her overtime as a cardiovascular perfusionist doing heart ops had abbreviations likes “palliative VSD 1.5hrs; MVR 1.5hrs; CVG”. One of her entries in December was ’17h00 Wed 14 Dec Farewell for CNB, Nurses Lounge, Clarendon House’. I knew that CNB meant Christiaan Neethling Barnard as she worked with him at the time. She would run the heart-lung machine to oxygenate the blood while he and the other surgeons worked on the patient’s heart.

I had time before my flight so I  thought I wonder if they have anything about his retirement in the book? and flipped through it.

And there she was on page 216:

Aitch Prof Chris Barnard (2)

So I had to buy it to show the pic to Jess and Tom. Jess said “Cool”; Tom shrugged: “We knew Mom was famous!”

Aitch Prof Chris Barnard (1)

Aitch, Life

Fame! Riches! The Life of Aitch

Hey, they’re making a movie on the life of heart surgeon Professor Chris Barnard.

Sunday, 3 December 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the world’s first heart transplant, so they obviously want to cash in on that.

Aitch worked with him till he retired. On 14 December 1983 she went to his farewell. She wrote this in her diary. CNB – Christiaan Neethling Barnard: (Later: A new book had a picture taken at the farewell!).

Aitch Diary (2)

Aitch & Barnard at the heart-lung machine
Barnard & Aitch

I wonder who they’ll get to play Aitch? Maybe Olga Kurylenko, Bond girl in Quantum of Solace?

Olga Kurylenko Bond girl

And I wonder what percentage we’ll get of the gross earnings? Surely they won’t cut the kids out of the proceeds?


Barnard wrote a book One Life. If I wrote a book on Aitch I’d call it One Wife.


Africa, Aitch, Family & Kids, Life, Nostalgia, School

Jessie’s Show & Tell – and Aitch’s Legacy

Jessie’s grade 10 class had Dr Chris Barnard and heart transplants as a subject last week.

When she told me I asked, “Did you tell them your Mama worked with him?”
Actually, no she hadn’t. She vaguely knew Mom had done it, but wasn’t confident enough to step forward. My shy Jess.

So out with Aitch’s old albums of her working next to the old sleazy charmer, still quite young back ca 1983. She says he tried his luck to get her to go out with him one night, as he apparently did with all the nubiles on the team.

And there in the pics was Aitch in theatre greens and mask: The cardio-vascular perfusionist operating the heart-lung machine – ‘the oxygenator’ – that kept the patient alive once the blood circulation had been diverted away from their own heart and lungs. And there was the famous cad watching. And there was a heart in a jar.

Aitch & Barnard at the heart-lung machine
The Prof and The Mom

Off to school went the album the next day and Jess was the focus of much attention and oohing and aahing.