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Heart of Cape Town Museum Map

About Heart of Cape Town Museum

On December 3rd 1967, a momentous medical procedure took place in Cape Town that was to revolutionise organ transplants. That event was the first human heart transplant and the man who carried out the ground-breaking procedure was a young cardiac surgeon named Christiaan (Chris) Barnard. To ce... read more

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More info about Heart of Cape Town Museum

On December 3rd 1967, a momentous medical procedure took place in Cape Town that was to revolutionise organ transplants. That event was the first human heart transplant and the man who carried out the ground-breaking procedure was a young cardiac surgeon named Christiaan (Chris) Barnard. To celebrate the historic occasion, the Heart of Cape Town Museum was established at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town where the event took place all those years ago. The museum opened in 2007, 40 years to the day.

A 2-hour tour guides the visitor through the hospital in a re-enactment of the events that took place on the day, from the preparations by Chris Barnard, to the storing and shipment of the heart of Denise Darvall, to the eventual operation on Louis Washkansky. Realistic lifelike models are used to depict the characters and a restored operating theatre shows the team in action during the operation.

The story has many heroes, chiefly of which is Professor Chris Barnard for attempting the procedure, but the family of Denise Darvall, who was diagnosed as brain dead a day earlier after being involved in an accident, were generous enough to willingly offer up her heart. Lastly, the recipient Louis Washkansky was courageous to undergo the pioneering procedure. Washkansky was to die only 18 days later from pneumonia but the stage had been set for future heart operations which are carried out regularly these days.

The museum is open 7 days a week with 4 guided tours per day. Occasionally the hop on-hop off bus company offers ticketholders a free shuttle service to and from the hospital, check before visiting the museum.