The Medical University of Cape Town, the capital of South Africa, has a prominent position in the medical world when the world’s first bypass operation was performed at this university.
Fifteen years ago, in the auditorium of this university, one morning in 2003, the world-renowned surgeon Professor David Dent announced that today we are awarding the honorary degree of Medicine to the man who produced the most surgeons in the world. Ordinary teacher and amazing surgeon and who has amazed medical science and expert surgeons. With the announcement, the professor named Hamilton Naki, and the entire auditorium stood and greeted the black man. It was the largest reception in the history of the university.
Hamilton Naki was born in Sanitani, a remote village in Cape Town. His father, Yin, was a shepherd. He wore goatskins, walked barefoot all day in the mountains, and helped his parents graze sheep and goats. As a young man, he left the village for Cape Town in search of work. A university was under construction in Cape Town in those days.
He joined the university as a laborer. He used to send home most of the money he earned after a hard day’s work and sleep in the open field after eating a little food and chewing gram. He worked as a laborer for many years and then got financially recruited in the same university. He got a job mowing the tennis court.
He would reach the tennis court every day and start mowing the lawn. He continued to do this for three years and then a strange turning point came in his life and he reached a point in the modern history of medicine which no illiterate person has been able to reach till date. It was a beautiful morning.
Robert Joyce, a professor at the same university, was doing research on giraffes. He laid a giraffe on the operating table, knocked it unconscious, but as soon as the operation began, the giraffe shook its head so much that he felt the need for a strong man to hold the giraffe’s neck tightly during the operation.
The professor came out of the theater, Hamilton was mowing the lawn in front. The professor saw that he was a healthy young man of strong stature. They gestured to him and ordered him to grab the giraffe’s neck. Hamilton grabbed the giraffe’s neck. The operation lasted eight hours. During this time, the doctor kept taking tea and coffee breaks but Hamilton stood holding the giraffe’s neck. When the operation was over, he quietly went out and started cutting grass.
The next day the professor called him again, he came and grabbed the giraffe’s neck and stood up. After that it became normal. He would come to the university, catch animals in the operating theater for eight to ten hours, and then start mowing the tennis courts. Hamilton worked for several months. Professor Robert Joyce was impressed by her perseverance and sincerity and made her a financial assistant. Hamilton was promoted.
He now came to the university, went to the operating theater and helped the surgeons. This went on for years. In 1958 came another turning point in his life. This year Dr. Bernard came to the university and started heart transplant operations.
Hamilton became his assistant. He kept an eye on Dr. Bernard’s work. During these operations, he went from an assistant to an additional surgeon. He used to do very stitches, his fingers became clean and fast, he did stitches of fifty people in one day.
While working in the operating theater, he began to understand the human body better than surgeons. So the great doctors entrusted this illiterate man with the responsibility of teaching junior doctors. He now began teaching junior doctors the techniques of surgery. Gradually, Hamilton became the most important figure in the university. He was unfamiliar with the terminology of medical science but was a better surgeon than the greatest surgeon. The third turning point in his life came in 1970, when he began research on the liver, and during the operation, he identified an artery in the liver that facilitated liver transplantation.
His remarks astonished the great minds of medical science. Today, when a person has a liver operation in some corner of the world and the patient opens his eyes, the credit for this successful operation goes to Hamilton. Hamilton has been associated with the University of Cape Town for 50 years. He traveled 14 miles daily to the university on foot. He never complained about the length of working hours and the lack of facilities.
Then came a time in his life when his salary and privileges were higher than the Vice-Chancellor of the University and he received an honor which no one in medical science has ever received. He was the first illiterate teacher of medical history. He had never seen the face of this school. He could not read or write a single word of English. He was the first illiterate surgeon to train 30,000 surgeons in his lifetime. He died in 2005 and was buried at the university, after which it was made mandatory for surgeons to pass out from the university. Log in.