Professor Christiaan Barnard was the brilliant and sometimes enigmatic surgeon who performed the first heart transplant 50 years ago. At times his actions seemed impulsive and illogical, yet he had an uncanny ability to weigh up risk and reward – and come up trumps all too often.

His ground-breaking relationship with a young, unemployed backyard mechanic changed not only the course of transplant surgery, but also the life of Winston Wicomb, the darker brother of the more famous Randall. While Randall easily passed as ‘white’, Winston’s colour presented a huge threat to the family who lived in fear of the Apartheid inspectors. So severe and real was the danger of his racial background being exposed, that Winston had to spend a considerable part of his youth behind his mother’s wardrobe whenever strangers called.

Vital Remains traces young Winston’s early years against the backdrop of Apartheid, abuse and rejection. Yet, despite the disadvantages he had to face, he refused to accept a live of submission to an unjust policy. He managed to obtain a BSc, but remained unemployed. Then, one day, his luck changed and he embraced an opportunity that would change the history of transplant surgery.

Vital Remains is the story of one man’s journey through the minefield of Apartheid’s heyday. It tells the story of hope, perseverance, dedication and even love. The message Winston wants to convey to the youth of today is a simple one: seek, strive and never, never give up. Amos van der Merwe considers this book his best yet and managed to tell Winston’s story with a healthy mix of fact, humour and gravity.


Chris Barnard het die hulp van besonderse mense nodig gehad om voor te bly in die vinnig ontwikkelende wetenskap van oor­plant­ing. Een van hierdie besonderse mense was Winston Wicomb, die donker broer van Randall Wicomb.

Hy moes weggesteek word as kind om sy ouers se ras identiteit van die Apartheidsinspekteurs te versteek.

Winston het karre reggemaak en ‘n merkwaardige ontmoeting gehad met Chris Barnard. Winston is aangestel om die apparaat te ontwikkel wat harte lewendig hou vir vervoer.

Dit is die storie van ‘n ongewone held; ‘n man wat oorplanting vir ewig verander het en nie die nodige erkenning ontvang het nie.

Dit is die storie van volharding en hoop en selfs van liefde.