Celebrating the Pioneering Kiwis of Cardiac Medicine

A new, interactive exhibition profiling pioneering Kiwi heart clinicians and the bravery of their patients will be launched in August.  Brave Hearts – The New Zealand Cardiac Story, opens to the public at Auckland’s Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) on Friday 18 August 2017.

This pop-up exhibitiondeveloped by The Auckland Medical Museum Trust with support from the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), explains how the heart works, how heart disease is investigated, and the largely untold story of New Zealand’s leading role in the evolution of heart surgery.

Displays with interactive models demonstrate normal heart function, what could go wrong and what can be done to diagnose and correct heart problems.  The exhibition delves into the inspiring stories behind New Zealand’s first open-heart operation, the cooling of children’s hearts to allow life-saving surgery and the innovation which led to replacing damaged heart valves.

Dr. Warren Smith, Medical Museum trustee explains the significance of Brave Hearts “The heart is an eternal symbol of human creative and artistic aspiration. Like the famous Bayeux tapestry, the story of the triumphs and the heartbreaks in the struggle to understand and then dare to correct the heart’s imperfections is worthy of proud preservation.”

MOTAT chief executive Michael Frawley says the Museum is delighted to host Brave Hearts “MOTAT specialises in bringing the stories behind science and technology to life through hands-on experiences and this account of an internationally significant period in heart surgery and the research which was driven from New Zealand aligns perfectly with our purpose to inspire future generations,” says Mr Frawley.

Visitors can also learn more about the recipients of ground-breaking heart care such as Helen Harris and former All Blacks doctor John Mayhew. Almost fifty-nine years ago ten-year-old New Zealander Helen Arnold (now Harris) became the first person in New Zealand to undergo heart-lung bypass surgery. This remarkable medical achievement was just one of a number of ground breaking procedures developed by the small team of heroic clinicians at Auckland’s Green Lane Hospital. Helen recalls:

 ‘I was Sir Brian-Barratt-Boyes' “golden girl”, the first to go on the heart lung bypass machine in 1958. I was very sick before that and was one of six given the chance to have the first open-heart surgery. My parents had faith in the doctors and agreed to the pioneering operation. I remember Dr. Barratt-Boyes going to sleep in the chair beside me in those first few days. Apart from being my life-giving surgeon, he was also a fatherly, tender figure whom I trusted utterly, and a good friend to mum and dad. He has been a figure around which my life has pivoted.I have had quite a life since: 3 open-heart surgeries, 3 pacemakers, 2 strokes. I am now 70 and still here and very fortunate. I have 3 grandchildren and I walk my dog every day’. Helen Harris (nee Arnold), April 2017 (born 1947).

Brave Hearts – The New Zealand Cardiac Story is supported by a school education programme and a public talk series hosted by AUT. It will be open at MOTAT until January 2018 before heading to Hamilton and AUT campus destinations.

  • Cardiac surgery in progress 1967

  • Bypass

  • ICR early 1960s intensive (NZ Herald )

For further information, photos, media passes or interviews, please contact:

Vanessa Hefer
Communications Advisor
Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)
Phone: (09) 845 3703, Mobile: (021) 340 518