Today in History: The Kid with a Baboon’s Heart

Article by Brian Kasaine
Posted: November 15, 2018  

The debate on whether we came from apes or not has always divided us. Some historians strongly believe in it, and they back it with theories cased in fastidious research. On the flip side, some find the idea as the biggest joke ever told, and should you ask them, these historians need to stop and check themselves.

But what we may all nod to is that humans have similarities to chimps, especially in anatomy and genetics. If you also spend time with monkeys and baboons, and be kind enough to share bananas, you’ll see how they masterfully peel them, just like you and I.

But to think these similarities warrant a baboon-to-human heart transplant is preposterous! Right? Well, years ago on a day like this, it happened in the US.

November 15th, 1984
Baby Stephanie Fae had been born three weeks prematurely, and on top of that, a life-threatening heart defect.

Having taken the Hippocratic Oath and avowed to save lives, Dr. Leonard Bailey was determined to leave no stone unturned to save the kiddo. Driven by this motive, his brain worked like a true wonk and finally grasped an idea that went down in history; that of giving Baby Fae a baboon’s heart.

The decision seemed to be the best, probably the only, considering that no infant heart donors were available. Hands got busied in an operation, after which Baby Fae revived, a baboon’s heart beating spontaneously inside her little chest.

On a day like this in 1984 however, the kiddo died, after breathing for 21 days with the baboon’s heart.

Phew! I know. After learning what happened today in history, I also need a shot of a stiff drink. So go ahead, I’ll be joining you in a few.


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