A unique South African coin with a design that represents the first ever successful human-to-human heart transplant, which took place right here in Cape Town, has won the ‘Best Contemporary Event Coin’ award at the 2019 Coin of the Year awards held in Berlin.
The prestigious Coin of the Year Awards honours and recognises beautiful coins from around the world for their numismatic design, artistic vision, craftsmanship, and marketing efforts. Coins issued up to two years prior to the year of the awards are judged by an international panel of judges.
Mints receive awards in only ten categories, with three coins selected in each. Besides the Best Contemporary Event, other categories include Best Gold, Best Circulation Coin, Most Artistic Coin and the coveted award for the overall Coin of The Year.
The winning R2 coin was designed under the theme of ‘South African inventions’ that was first launched in 2016.
The year 2017, in which the coin was created, marks the 50th anniversary of the first successful human-to-human heart transplant, which was performed by a team of around 30 surgeons – led by Dr Christiaan Neethling Barnard – in Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital on December 3 1967.
The reverse of the R2 crown depicts a human torso with a view of the internal organs, muscles and skeleton and a circle around the heart. The denomination and the words ‘First heart transplant’ and the year ‘1967’ are also printed on it. The obverse of the coin features the coat of arms of South Africa, the year ‘2017’, and the words ‘South Africa’ in all of the country’s official languages.
The reverse of the 2½c tickey follows the same theme as the R2 crown; printed on it is a human heart, the denomination, and ‘CNB’, while its obverse features the words ‘South Africa’, ‘2017’, and a King Protea.
The momentous, historic event depicted by the coins took place in the hospital’s Charles Saint Theatre and will be forever remembered as a moment that broke the boundaries of science were and made way for a new medical epoch.
After a decade of heart surgery, Barnard and his gifted cardiothoracic team of 30 (which included his brother Marius), had been well-equipped to perform the nine-hour-long operation.
The recipient, Louis Washkansky, a fifty-three-year-old grocer with a debilitating heart condition, received the heart of Denise Darvall, a young woman who was run over by a car on December 2 and had been declared brain dead after suffering serious brain damage.
Her father, Edward Darvall agreed to the donation of his daughter’s heart and kidneys. The operation started shortly after midnight on a Saturday night and was completed the next morning just before 6am when the new heart in the chest of Louis Washkansky was electrically shocked into action. After regaining consciousness he was able to talk and on occasion, to walk but his condition deteriorated and he unfortunately passed away due to pneumonia eighteen days after the procedure.
Groote Schuur Hospital forms the ‘Heart of Cape Town Museum’ which honours those who played a leading role in the surgical feat. Theatres A and B are the orginal theatres and have been recreated to display an authentic representation of the ground-breaking operation.
Other winning countries that received awards at the 2019 Coin of the Year event included France, The Cook Islands, Republic of Palau, The United States, and Mauritania.