Vital Remains: Winston Wicomb, the Heart Transplant Pioneer Apartheid Could Not Stop

Author(s): Amos Van der Merwe 

ISBN: 9781781556597
£14.00 £20.00
This is the story of an eternal optimist and profound dreamer who managed to rise from the backstreets of Cape Town to become an internationally recognised transplant pioneer.
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  • A memoir of Winston Wicomb’s life documenting his journey through the difficulties of apartheid to his success within the medical field

  • Personal anecdotes that bring South African social politics and racial conflicts to life

  • An insider’s perspective of the early development of heart transplantation

In the dark years of apartheid, a boy grew up in a household with a terrible secret: although they were of mixed origins, they had managed to ‘pass as white’. A young Winston Wicomb, however, was far too dark to fit in and had to be hidden whenever someone knocked on their door. After struggling through school and even managing to obtain a university degree, he remained unemployed due to his skin colour. To make ends meet, he serviced cars in their backyard, but never stopped dreaming about escaping the restraints of apartheid. Then fate intervened... While distributing pamphlets advertising his mechanical skills, Wicomb found Professor Chris Barnard stranded next to a road.

He offered to help even though he had no experience with the new Mercedes-Benz the professor drove.

Barnard, surprised at the success of Winston’s efforts and impulsive as ever, offered Winston a job in his research lab.

It is here that Winston applied his knowledge and experience of matters mechanical to produce the world’s first apparatus to transport a living heart over long distances.

Vital Remains: Winston Wicomb, the Heart Transplant Pioneer Apartheid Could Not Stop tells the story of an unlikely hero, a huge risk, achievement… and love.

BOOK ISBN 9781781556597
FORMAT 234 x 156 mm
BINDING Hardback
PAGES 208 pages
PUBLICATION DATE 15 November 2017
ILLUSTRATIONS 48 colour photographs



Amos Van der Merwe retired from medical practice to pursue a life-long dream of writing. His short stories and articles have appeared in Runner’s World, Leisure Wheels and various other magazines and publications. His two previous biographies about prominent South African personalities and five books of fiction all received extremely favourable reviews. Van der Merwe now lives in an isolated estate on South Africa’s Garden Route coast, with a family of francolins as neighbours. He writes because he believes words can be used to change the world into a happier place.