The Heart of Cape Town Museum is situated in the original operating rooms where the world’s first heart transplant was performed by Professor Christiaan Barnard and his team, on 3rd December 1967. The operating rooms have been set up to look exactly as they did at the time and the whole team of doctors and nurses are represented in the form of very lifelike models, much like Madame Tussaud’s in London. The tours take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours and are conducted by experienced on-site tour guides who recreate all the drama of that night in each exhibition room.
The following is a brief outline of the tour:
- The tour starts at the reception area, which was the trauma unit back in the 1960’s; the story of the transplant is told, setting the scene for our visitors.
- We then proceed up stairs, giving the visitors interesting information on the way.
- Upstairs we enter the original wing. The first room we enter is a recreation of the animal laboratory at the medical school, where we explain about the research conducted before the first open heart surgery and later, the first heart transplant. This is followed by a 6 minute movie.
- In our auditorium we show a 26 minute movie about Professor Christiaan Barnard’s life and his work.
- A recreation of Denise Darval, the first donor’s, bedroom at home where we pay tribute to her and her family.
- A recreation of Professor Christiaan Barnard’s office with a lifelike model of the doctor at his desk.
- The first operating room is the donor operating room, fully equipped and ‘staffed’. Here we explain what each person in the operating room did and about the equipment and the procedure of harvesting the heart.
- Sterilizing room and scrub room is situated between the two operating rooms and is fully equipped and is where we explain about the importance of sterilization.
- The second operating room is where all the drama took place and where world history was made. This operating room is also fully equipped and ‘staffed’ and we explain all the drama of that operation.
- The intensive care ward, recreated, where we explain the patient’s recovery and his death after 18 days and where the original hearts are exhibited.
*There are many documents, letters, photographs, posters and old newspapers to be viewed and visitors are encouraged to walk around on completion of the tour.
*Cameras/Cell-phones are welcome in our museum but we ask that cell-phones be on silent.