Introduction to Author

Christiaan Barnard was a South African cardiac surgeon who performed the world’s first human to human heart transplant operation. He introduced the operation of heterotopic heart transplantation.

After the loss of his brother due to a cardiac ailment, he was determined to pursue medicine.

In his late years, he established the Christiaan Barnard Foundation to serve and promote the cause of underprivileged children throughout the world. He died in the year 2001 at the age of 78.

Dr. Christiaan Barnard

The lesson “In Celebration of being Alive” written by Dr. Christiaan Barnard, is an extract from his own speech, where he is narrating his experience regarding Human sufferings. This lesson was written by him at the culmination of his profession as a heart surgeon, when his thoughts began to analyse the pain and sufferings , which people undergoes.

Throughout his narration, he stresses on the fact that “Life is a business” and one should celebrate it being alive. He is actually emphasising on his views and perspective regarding human sufferings and further narrates one of the incidents which changed his entire perspective about life and adversities.

He begins his narration by questioning the necessity of Suffering and Pain one has to undergo. He personifies sufferings as “Cruel” and further states the fact that out of 125 million children, 12 million are unlikely to reach the age of one and another six million die before the age of five. And, of the rest, many end up as mentally or physically disabled.

An Accident

Suddenly his thoughts jump over one of the accidents, he and his wife met a few years ago while crossing the street. A car hit him and his wife. After that unfortunate incident both of them were hospitalised. He speaks about his eleven broken ribs, damaged lungs and his wife’s badly fractured shoulder, which made him completely helpless.

He describes how this incident filled him with panic, agitation as well as terror, for not allowing him to complete his pending works and operating his patients waiting for him. He got worried after thinking of his baby who needed the care of his mother.

He then disagrees by stating about his father’s perspective about agony that it’s always God’s tests which ultimately makes the sufferer morally noble and dignified. He further expresses that as a doctor he neither sees anything noble in a patient’s restless pain nor in the crying of a lonely child in a ward at night.

Transformation of Thoughts

Several years ago, one morning, the narrator is encountered with two boys, one is a blind driver and the other is a handicapped mechanic. All his anguish got changed into appreciation of life when he saw these two physically challenged children in a hospital, racing in a food trolley as if it was a car. The view of these two boys completely transformed the narrator’s thinking about suffering.

He continues to describe the environment where he was present and encountering the entire scene. He mentions about a breakfast trolley, which was left by a nurse. But soon the same trolley was commandeered by bold and daring crew of two people-a driver and a mechanic (both disabled).

The narrator was filled with contentment as well as encouragement he had never felt before. It was so entertaining for him to see physically challenged children shouting with joy and cheerfully playing around. There was a grand finale of scattered plates and silverware before the nurse and ward sister could come and scold them.

Seven Years Old Child

He then says that the mechanic was just a seven-year-old child, who lost his both the eyes while his drunkard mother threw the lantern over his drunkard father but unfortunately the lantern broke over the child’s shoulder, and the child had to suffer severe third degree burns on the upper part of his body and lost both his eyes. His innocent face turned into a disfigured face.

As the narrator stopped to see him, the blind boy was exclaiming with joy that he had finally won. The narrator continues and begins to describe the driver of the trolley, that he once had a hole in his heart which was successfully operated by the narrator himself. However, he had again returned to the hospital because of a malignant tumour of the bone. Apart from all these sufferings, he even had to undergo a surgery in which his shoulder and arm were cut off.

A Happy Person

After the narrator turned to him, he saw him being happy and proudly claiming that he had been a good driver despite the improperly oiled wheels, and he had full confidence in the mechanic.

This was the turning point in the narrator’s life, where he finally realised that being alive is more important than the sufferings we are experiencing. He even realised that it is not what we have lost but it is important what we have left. He exemplifies by stating the example of Light and Darkness that the Light cannot be appreciated without Darkness, nor can warmth be appreciated without cold.