The name game: Heart to heart

2012-09-20 13:51

A famous family name can be a blessing – and for some it’s a responsibility to nurture for generations to come.

Armin Barnard
Armin Barnard, 23, is the youngest son of the late heart surgeon Dr Chris Barnard and he is well aware of the heritage of a famous name.

Armin’s mother, Karin, was Chris’s third wife and their marriage was over before Chris died in 2001.

Armin was 12 years old and his sister Lara was four.

‘My sister recently asked me about our dad and I feel sorry for her that she remembers so little of him.

When I was small, I sat on the couch and listened to one of the wisest people talk about everything from medicine to love and nature.’

You can see his dad’s charming smile and delicate nose and also the spark of a man who loved life.

‘It feels as if I’m a combination of all the Barnard men – I have something intellectual and analytical like my dad and my half-brother Frederick, but I’m also playful, creative and social like my other brother, Christiaan.’

Yes, like his dad and brothers Armin also loves women: ‘But we’re not womanisers! We respect women. All the Barnard men are passionate and romantic. And very emotional, always the first to cry at a wedding!’

The Barnard name is a blessing, not a burden, Armin says.

‘But I’ve never flaunted my name.’

When he had to decide on a career at the end of Matric, the Barnard name rested heavily on his shoulders, Armin says. ‘The pressure to perform comes from myself and the well-meaning expectations of people outside our family.

It comes from the women who work at the Wimpy in Beaufort West who saw me grow up and ask every year, ‘How are you? Are you a doctor yet?’ Sometimes I wish I studied medicine so I can go with a stethoscope and say, “Hello, is everyone happy now?”’

He eventually studied economics and finance at the University of Cape Town. ‘And I can’t wait to finish at the end of the year.

Academia doesn’t agree with me!’

Armin’s close family life is his most important pillar of strength.

He has a good relationship with his stepdad, Saul Berman, his younger sister Leah, 9, and younger brother Zach, 6.

Even though he knows his dad wanted him to follow in his footsteps as a doctor, Armin believes Chris would just have wanted to see him happy.

 ‘I think my dad would’ve said, “Don’t worry, just do what your heart tells you.”’

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