Wednesday, February 11, 2009

CHD Awareness Week - Post 4

As I've gone through the past 4 years with Zoe, I find myself thinking about the way things used to be for kids like me. The very first operations on the heart were done in the 1940's. One of the most famous was the Blalock -Taussig Shunt. This surgery was done to help what was known as the "blue babies" - or children suffering from a set of defects called Tetrology of Fallot. This surgery is the first surgery in the 3 stage set of operatios that are curretly used to treat single ventricle defects such as Zoe's set of defects. The first open heart surgery was done in the 1950's - when they were first able to use an oxygenator to maintain blood flow during the procedure. One of the pioneers of modern surgery was C. Walton Lillehei from the University of Minnesota. He was the first to correct a heart defect using hypothermia. He also successfully used a method of cross-circulation to maintain blood flow during surgery. What this was, was using another person and their circulatory system - it sounds like a mad scientist thing, but he did achieve some success with it. In this time period - of the 40's and 50's, it was insane how many failures they had, but yet all the doctors kept pushing on. It would have been so easy for them to say "oh forget it, this is an impossible task, it just can't be done" and give up, but they didn't. I am grateful to them for pushing on, and grateful to the legions of hopeful parents who entrusted their precious children to these doctors in the hopes that just once, their child would be the one who made it through. All too often, they didn't make it, and it was the last time they saw their children. I am grateful to them all for having the will to say that it was not acceptable to doom these children to an untimely death, and to not give in to the established thinking that said you could not operate on the heart.

I will leave you now with a list of "required reading" and viewing - as it were:

This is a book published by the Children's Heart Foundation, called "It's My Heart", which gives a rundown of many different heart defects, what they are, and the different surgical techniques that are done to help these defects (notice I didn't say "fix", unless they are repairing a hole in the heart, there really isn't any fixing for defects, just palliative things that make it so the child can live a good life).The next book is a biography of C. Walton Lillehei - I first read it in the hospital while Zoe was recovering from her Fontan, and I gotta say I was pretty mesmerized, it's a great read and an amazing story.This next book is one I haven't read yet - I just got it from the library, and I intend to read it. I've heard good things about it though. :) It's called "Walk on Water" and it's a profile of surgeons at a top hospital back east - I think in Ohio.Now for the required viewing. This movie was first recommended to me by Zoe's surgeon for her first 2 surgeries - Dr. Gordon Cohen at Seattle Children's Hospital. It's the story of Dr. Blalock, and his assistant Vivien Thomas as they worked to create the Blalock-Taussig shunt. It's called "Something the Lord Made" and you can get it on DVD or catch it on HBO sometimes.

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