Hamilton Naki : A medical Giant
January 15, 2007 1 Comment
I just got an email regarding Hamilton-Naki and I was amazed when I read it. Mail was About Himilton-Naki and his life achievements. It’s really an interesting story. here is an excerpt from the article about Mr. Naki below
“Hamilton Naki was born in South Africa in the village of Ngcangane in the Eastern Cape. At the age of 14 he quit School because the Family could afford to Educate him further. He made his way to Cape Town and started life as a gardener in The University of Cape Town Medical school. His life changed when in 1954 Robert Goetz the head of the Animal Research lab in the University hired him as a lab Technologist. He got the job when he assisted in holding down a giraffe during a dissection.He started as a cleaner of cages , then to anaesthetizing animals and then dissecting them. He later moved to assisting in surgeries and learnt and later taught liver transplants. What should have been his moment in the sun but was eclipsed by the vagaries of apartheid was the event in South Africa in December 1967 when he was chosen by Cristiaan Barnard the heart surgeon to be his principal assistant in the first heart transplant. It was Hamilton Naki who on that fateful day on December 3 1967 that performed the crucial cardiac surgery of retrieving the heart of Ms Denise Duvall in the Groote Schuur hospital and passing it to Christiaan Barnard who then transplanted the heart. The rest is history Christiaan Barnard was feted around the World and nobody new about Hamilton Naki till the 90’s.
He was listed on Hospital records as a Senior Gardener but given a Lab Technologist salary.He trained several thousand Surgeons and Physicians over the years. Just before he died in 2001 Christiaan Barnard admitted belatedly that Hamilton Naki was probably technically better than he was.
Hamilton Naki retired in 1991 and drew a gardeners pension of the equivalent of $ 275. He was only able to send one of his 5 children through high school. Hamilton Naki was awarded the National Order of Mapungubwe and a Honorary degree in Medicine from the University of Capetown.
Mr Naki recently died of heart failure at the age of 78. This was a man who for lack of a better word i would paraphrase Professor Akinkugbe the eminent Nephrologist and icon of Hypertension in Africa in his excellent obituary on Prof Adeoye Lambo had what the Yoruba’s call ”Lakaaye”. This is an attributive word for industriousness, honesty ,steadfastness,intellect among others.”
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