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Local’s book gets a Russian slant

Local author Michael Lee presented a Russian translation of his documentary novel, Heartbeat – a novel memorialising the world’s first heart transplant – to the consul general of the Russian Federation in Cape Town in December.

This was done in honour of the 25th year of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The novel Heartbeat by Michael Lee (61), a resident of Sonstraal in Durbanville, was originally published in 2015 after extensive research, as reported in TygerBurger last year (“Commemorating a medical miracle”, TygerBurger, 6 September 2017).

This 50th anniversary special edition clarifies the role of the animal laboratory surgeon Hamilton Naki in this groundbreaking event.

The book includes a new essay on the legacy of Naki, co-written by Professor Anwar Sulman Mall, acting deputy vice-chancellor and professor of general surgery at the University of Cape Town (UCT), as well as Grant Willis, a director in UCT administration who once witnessed a transplant performed by Naki.

“While the Russian edition of this extraordinary true story comes at a time when the two countries celebrate diplomatic ties, it also acknowledges heart surgeon Professor Chris Barnard’s inspiration from Russia,” says Lee, also an artist and qualified futurist.

A few years before leading the world-renowned heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital on 3 December 1967, Barnard visited Russian scientist and organ transplant pioneer, Vladimir Demikhov, in Moscow.

Demikhov was one of the world’s founding fathers of transplantology, a branch of medicine focused on organ transplants and the development of artificial, or machine, organs. He had performed several organ transplantations on animals, including the revolutionary transplantation of the heads of dogs. Clearly, Barnard was impressed by Demikhov’s groundbreaking work, and this is an example of why continued scientific and cultural contact with Russia is important,” Lee says.

“It’s a true pleasure to be presented with the book on one of the greatest events in modern history,” Ambarov comments.

“The fact that Chris Barnard took inspiration from Vladimir Demikhov is a wonderful example of what the people of our countries can achieve together.”

The Russian translation of Heartbeat was sponsored by cardiologist Professor Sergey Dzemeshkevich after a visit to the Heart of Cape Town Museum at Groote Schuur Hospital. It was published by MEDpress-Inform Publishers in Moscow.

The 50th anniversary edition of Heartbeat is available from major booksellers in South Africa and may be ordered online.

What is your opinion on this article? Let us know at briewe@tygerburger.co.za.

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