Turkish shoemaker’s letter to surgeon of first heart transplant remarked on social media
Musa Kesler – ISTANBUL
Ahmet Çuhacı, a late shoemaker in Turkey’s northwestern province of Tekirdağ, had sent the letter on May 1, 1968 to offer Prof. Christiaan Barnard a hand-made shoe for the “greatest help to humans with the heart operation.”
The letter, being exhibited in the Heart of Cape Town Museum within the Groote Schuur Hospital in South Africa’s legislative capital, drew attention among Turkish social media users after a doctor shared it recently.
Barnard had performed the first heart transplant in which patient Louis Washkansky regained consciousness but died of pneumonia 18 days later after the operation on Dec. 3, 1967. The transplant operation was highly-publicized worldwide.
“As a worker of shoe-making in Turkey I wish to send to Doctor Barnard who gave the greatest help to a human being with his heart operation in our century and to sympathetic dentist Blaiberg each a pair of shoes as a gift,” Çuhacı wrote in the letter.
“I want you to send me the foot-numbers of these two friends as soon as possible,” he said, ending the letter, “Greetings to the persons who work in your hospital from our city Tekirdağ-Turkey.”
Ahmet Çuhacı passed away five years ago, his wife Fatma Çuhacı told daily Hürriyet.
“He didn’t tell me anything about the letter. But he used to do such things. It’s just his cup of tea,” she said.
“I was not aware that he wrote a letter like this one. He didn’t speak any foreign language. He had friends who spoke foreign languages for sure. He also had doctor friends. He used to listen to BBC Turkish radio programs. He used to join quiz programs and send letters to answer questions. He even won a trip to Europe once with a letter he sent. I wasn’t able to go with him because it was a one-person invitation and our kids were too young, I couldn’t leave them. He went on the trip. He used to tell of what he had seen,” she added.
The management of the Heart of Cape Town Museum has not found any records showing if the letter was replied to or not, according to a statement to daily Hürriyet.
“Nor do we have a record if the shoes were sent,” it said.
The management also reached out to Prof. Barnard’s family to ask if they remember anything about the letter or the shoes but there was nothing of the incident in their memory either.