'Lonely' Dr Chris died of 'broken heart'

2001-09-03 10:27

Cape Town - "We became the best of friends recently and in my heart IÆm glad we were able to mend the broken fences between us".

This was the reaction of Chris Barnard's first wife, Louwtjie Barnard, 77, when she heard the news that he had died of a suspected asthma attack in his hotel room while on holiday in Cyprus.

Shortly before Professor Chris BarnardÆs departure for Greece, just more than a week ago, Louwtjie said she prepared his favourite offal dish and shortened a pair of pants for him.

"At least he thought I was a good cook!", she said with a smile.

She then spoke of the occasions the family had meals or tea together. "We had good times. The past is the past. If you try and cling to that, youÆll sink".

BarnardÆs daughter Deirdre Visser, 51, maintains her father died of a "broken heart".

"Despite all his friends he was very lonely and I find that the saddest. He had a wonderful sense of humour, but I could detect his loneliness", she said on Sunday.

"It seems ironic that he who had mended so many hearts should die of a broken one. The divorces were more than he could bear and he missed his children. We as a family tried to create occasions to try and relieve his loneliness", Visser said.

A friend with whom her father did business in Greece called Visser just after lunch on Sunday with the news. "He said, I donÆt know how to tell you and I just knew...", Visser said sadly.

Professor Barnard departed for Greece on August 24 for a holiday on his own. On Saturday evening, he attended the christening of a family member in Greece. Visser said relatives noticed that he was regularly using his asthma pump.

Visser is convinced her father wanted to spend his final years in South Africa. "He phoned four times (on Saturday) to get the latest rugby score. My father was very outspoken, but also a positive person. ThatÆs how he was; he was very positive about South Africa".

Visser had just finished typing the first section of BarnardÆs next medical book, The Big Barnard. "His voice is still recorded on tape. At times his voice is soft and indistinct, but after each sentence there is a very definite æfull stop, new sentence'..", she said.

"IÆll keep the manuscript", Visser said, with tears streaming down her cheeks.