“Knowing about that girl, and her life and her family, made it all so inhuman, somehow. My husband’s heart had an identity. It wasn’t just a piece of flesh anymore.”

                                                                             -Mrs Washkansky

The first heart selflessly donated to save a man’s life.

On that fateful day, on the 2nd December 1967, Denise Darvall and her mother stopped on Main Road, Salt River, to buy a cream cake for their afternoon tea visit. As they were crossing over the road, they were run over by a drunk driver.

Shortly after the accident, (just a km from Groote Schuur) Ann Washkansky drove past the accident scene on her way back from visiting her dying husband. A sensitive woman, she averted her gaze, unaware that within 12 hours one of the broken bodies lying in the road would give her husband a heart and another chance at life.

Mrs Washkansky hated the idea that in order for her husband to have a new heart somebody else would have to die. Worse still, she later regretted knowing who the donor was: “Knowing about that girl, and her life and her family, made it all so inhuman, somehow. My husband’s heart had an identity. It wasn’t just a piece of flesh anymore.”

Indeed, Denise Darvall’s heart cannot be considered “just a piece of flesh” – it is arguably the most famous heart in history: the first heart selflessly donated to save a man’s life and a heart which subsequently, played a vital role in the advancement of medical knowledge.