Get to know the doctor who defied prejudices, the media and the entire system to save people’s lives.
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In 1967, South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first successful heart transplant. This milestone achievement inspired many other clinics to successfully attempt their own heart transplants… but not in the Eastern Bloc. It took almost 20 years, a broken career, great charisma and a truly rebellious man to finally start saving people’s lives by giving them new hearts.
In this episode we delve into the story of Professor Zbigniew Religa, a man who wasn’t afraid to defy old prejudices, the medical system and society, the communist party and hundreds of roadblocks to help others. How did he manage to do that? What does it take to shake an obsolete system and build a modern cardiac surgery clinic in the middle of nowhere? And why do our societies sometimes desperately need rebels? Find out in the latest episode of Stories From The Eastern West.
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[00:00] Background: Christiaan Barnard & the first successful heart transplant back in 1967.
[04:00] Why, almost 20 years later, were there still no heart transplants in the Eastern Bloc?
[06:09] How one man defied the system and started a revolution that aimed to make heart transplants possible.
[09:06] Professor Religa’s work ethic and team-building abilities.
[13:55] The programme of heart transplantations begins.
[19:00] The first successful surgery brought a flood of patients. Where did they find donors?
[20:50] How Professor Religa capitalised on his popularity to save even more people.
[23:35] Why does our society sometimes need rebels?
Dariusz Kortko / editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza Katowice and author of the bestselling biographies of Professor Religa and alpinist Jerzy Kukuczka. For providing us with a great overview of Religa’s life and career.
Zbigniew Nawrat Ph. D. / theoretician physicist and pioneering researcher in the artificial organ domain, specifically in heart valve prostheses and blood pumps. For sharing his memories and experiences being Professor Religa’s deputy at FRK – Fundacja Rozwoju Kardiochirurgii.
SFTEW Team: Wojciech Oleksiak, Adam Zulawski, John Beauchamp, Nitzan Reisner & Michael Keller