Barnard’s choice of career, ambition and drive undoubtedly put strain on his first marriage to Louwtjie, in the early days before the historic heart transplant. The celebrity status he gained after the event pushed the relationship over the edge and the couple ultimately divorced. Their children, Deirdre and André, continued to live with Louwtjie.
Barnard’s second marriage was to Barbara Zoellner with whom he had two sons – Frederick and Christiaan. Sadly this marriage did not last and his third marriage to South African model Karin Setzkorn, Armin and Lara’s mother, also ended in divorce. Christiaan Barnard’s family life was somewhat unstable compared to his booming surgical career.
Barnard was perhaps particularly close to his firstborn Deirdre, who proved to be a champion water skier from a very young age. Prior to the heart transplant he invested a lot of time training Deidre as a world class skier until the moment he realised: “she was just too damn nice” to be a world champion.
He later admitted: “The time had come for me to stop using my daughter to satisfy my own ambitions”.