20th Century, History, Medical Technology, Medicine, Minnesota

First Successful Open-Heart Surgery

Dr. Lillehei and Controlled Cross circulation model, https://twitter.com/MedCrisis/status/1227349896119844865

September 1, 1952
“In 1952, after a long process of study, research, experimentation, and practice, Dr. Lillehei performed the first successful open-heart surgery on a human patient who survived.” *

To be more accurate, Dr. Lillehei assisted his colleague and close personal friend at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Floyd John Lewis in this first procedure. Dr. Lewis innovated the model of inducing hypothermia in his patients to slow the de-oxygenation of their blood during the the time the heart is stopped during surgery. While successful, they learned this model’s restricted time window, about ten minutes, was insufficient to deal with problems and complications of open-heart surgery. Dr. Lillehei sought new ways to overcome these limitations. **

For the sake of brevity, I chose to cite the wonderful synopsis written by Andrew B. Stone for the MNopedia tool of the Minnesota Historical Society below. The productivity, innovation, and advancements made by Lillehei and his expert colleagues, friends and collaborators at the University of Minnesota is so staggering that I would be remiss to provide an inaccurate source. Enjoy!

Chronology
“1942
Lillehei graduates from the University of Minnesota Medical School and joins the army as a surgeon in a mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) unit.
1945
Lillehei returns to University of Minnesota Medical School as a surgical resident under the supervision of Dr. Owen Wangensteen, chairman of the Department of Surgery.
1951
Lillehei finishes his Ph.D. in surgery and becomes a professor of surgery at the University of Minnesota.
1952
On September 2, Lillehei assists his friend and colleague Dr. John Lewis in performing the world’s first successful open-heart surgery.
1953
Dr. John Gibbon performs a successful open-heart surgery in Philadelphia using an artificial heart-lung machine, but these machines are difficult to use and open-heart surgery remains very dangerous. Several surgeons abandon plans for future operations.
1953
Lillehei and his research assistant, Morley Cohen, seize on the idea of using cross-circulation to perform open-heart surgery, and begin experimenting with dogs in their lab.
1954
On March 26, Lillehei performs the world’s first successful open-heart surgery using cross-circulation on thirteen-month-old Gregory Glidden. Glidden dies eleven days later, but an autopsy confirms that his heart defect had been successfully repaired.
1954
Lillehei performs two more successful open-heart surgeries. He announces these successes at a press conference and becomes world-famous.
1955
In collaboration with Dr. Richard DeWall, Lillehei helps to develop a simpler heart-lung machine and oxygen bubbler, making open-heart surgery safer.
1955
On December 9, Lillehei performs his 100th open-heart surgery, but the patient dies after surgery due to heart block.
1957
Lillehei asks Earl Bakken, an electrician at the University of Minnesota, to create a portable, battery-powered device to cure heart block by regulating heartbeat using electricity. (Author’s note: Bakken went on to found the Minnesota-based company Medtronic; a world innovator in pacemakers and medical technology.) ****
1958
On April 14, Lillehei successfully implants the world’s first portable pacemaker into a patient with heart block, saving the patient’s life.” ***

In the end, we may gain the greatest insights into this event and Dr. Lillehei through an interview with his son. Dr. Craig Lillehei, a pediatric surgeon at Boston children’s hospital, said the following about his father ca. 2014.

“The striking thing about him is that he wasn’t afraid of new ideas. And even sometimes crazy ideas. That he would fully consider them and work through it and see, that sometimes doing some experimentation and whatnot, to find out whether they made sense or not. I think that was number one. I think that number two is that he, sort of, knew the big goals and relentlessly pursued those.” *

Shall we begin our supplications by remembering the ancient nature of surgery? Egypt provided the human race with the first written accounts of human surgeries ca. 17th B.C., so all medical research is standing on the shoulders of at least about 3700 years of similar trial and error. We gratefully recount this foundation that provided the basis for modern scientific surgery, Lord! *

We follow that gratitude with a second praise; that You made Dr. Lillehei eternally curious! This man, whose formal education won him five degrees, remained open to new information, and scientifically embraced failures. Perhaps this is why he so consistently entertained solving “impossible” challenges?

In this, we see a refraction of Your nature and example, beloved Messiah. You astounded critics and cynics by embracing impossible outcomes.
“When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:25,26 NIV

A tertiary triumph of the life of Dr. Clarence Walton Lillehei is his example of collaboration, basic trust, and extension of relationship. Though a formidable mind on his own, he forged new paths in science and surgery with friends. And oh, what a cast of incredible human beings he created with: Dr. Owen Wangensteen, Dr. Floyd John Lewis, Morley Cohen, Dr. Richard De Wall, and Earl Bakken to name a few. For these, and surely many others, the State of Minnesota and the human race gives You praise! May we be humbly joyful that You guided all these paths to discovery and greatness; together!

Conversely, we remember also the frailty of the human ego. Quite often, innovators in any field care most about big ideas, and truly want their expertise to better the human race. Being motivated such, it is crucifixion to be blocked or cut out of recognition and acknowledgement! It, for so many doctors and scientists, breaks their hearts and spirits because they are fueled by having a good name rather than wealth. Where we may have failed contributors to science and heart surgery in Lillehei’s era, Will You forgive us? Where corruption, academic pride, or greed trumped researchers, will You have mercy? Will You honor those who silently have contributed so much blessing on the present and future?

As a last thought, we ponder the innovation of cross-circulation. What an apt icon of lovingkindness and self-sacrifice? These scientists and surgeons survived epic wins and failures by providing each others brains with the oxygen of acknowledgement, belief, and radical commitment to their various projects.

In so doing, they cross-circulated the lives of patients with hope. They dreamed impossible dreams, even having to create new vocabulary to describe it to their peers and students. What is this but bringing oxygen to the minds and misbeliefs of others?

We see many present forces running counter to the lofty ideals of Dr. Lillehei. Politicians, more concerned with who gets credit than care, starves the brains of innovation. Insurance providers, sometimes heavily manipulated by the political class, become micro-managers of their patients willingness to risk, thus, starving the bloodstream of hope. We see the limitations of the collectivist utopians and social engineers stifling creative thought, depriving our creatives of the freedom to think. Who will think big and make mistakes in our present and future, if we culturally mandate “correct” thoughts? Are we forcing society into the paradigm of “10 minute heart surgery”?

No! We need more time to fix broken hearts! Ruach ha Kodesh, (Holy Spirt) call on Your counsel to heal us in our sufferings in Minnesota. Your Body, the Ekklesia, dies without collaboration and being present with You and each other! We suffer from arrhythmia of culture; we want to keep beating, but can’t seem to find a common tempo! Will You bless like Dr. Lillehei, to see how our hearts can beat for each other? All is possible in Your Kingdom! Only impart to us belief and basic trust in our fellow man’s heart! Amen.

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19th Century, Business, Economics, Exploration, Health, History, Minnesota, riverboat, Technology, Transportation

First Steamboat at Ft. Snelling 1823

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The “Virginia” is the first steamboat to reach Fort Snelling. Needed supplies are missing from the cargo, though the boat does carry the umbrella-wielding Italian count Giacomo Beltrami.*

Today’s meditation is on the relevance of the arrival of steamboats in the state of Minnesota. For the author, the practical is spiritual, and often the super-normal is the basis of the super-natural. Therefore, if I want to hear what my Good Father is saying to me today, I may have to slow my thoughts to the speed of a paddle-wheeler headed upstream. That said, below is a succinct general history to amplify this event:

“As early as the 17th Century a handful of explorers, hardy French voyageurs, and missionaries had ventured into the environs of the Upper Mississippi River Valley. Through a variety of relationships that included cooperation, intermingling, and competition with the native inhabitants of the region, several temporary encampments and forts had been established to support the lucrative fur trade. But most historians agree that nothing changed the frontier as quickly as steam transportation.

In April, 1823 the small steam packet Virginia backed out into the channel of the Mississippi from the St. Louis levee to become the first boat to ascend the Father of Waters into what would later become the Minnesota Territory. This remarkable journey was chronicled by Giacomo Constantine Beltrami, the Italian explorer who went on to play an important role in Minnesota history.  A Kentucky family en route to the lead mines of southern Wisconsin on board the 118-foot vessel represented the first trickle of what would soon become a deluge of immigration. Also on board the Virginia for this historic trip was Captain William Clark of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1805.

Imagine the contrast of traveling in the relative ease and comfort of this sturdy little boat given his experience of just a few years earlier.” **

There is much here to ponder: the new technology of the steamboat, how this technology changed history, and what timeless truths can we grasp from it? Lord of Mighty Rivers hear my simple thoughts and prayers.

Strong Creator, thank You for the scientific properties of water. It’s truly amazing! It’s like Your character, it can appear as ice, liquid, or steam, yet it is always the same substance. You put it into Your creative children to harness this transitional power for the betterment of humankind. Which of their ancestors would imagine that one day their boiling tea kettle would power massive loads upstream against the might of the Mississippi?

Here is my first confession and petition. Lord forgive our lack of imagination, both for ourselves, and for the dreams of others. May we practice to spur this generation to dream, and to the enjoyable discipline necessary to their fulfillment. May we be a voice of encouragement that pushes others to defy the current! Thank You for the symbolic value of the lonely Virginia moving slowly to its destination!

Next, new technology often makes the impossible possible, and the impractical practical. Again, who in the 18th century would think that their steaming iron maple syrup pot could actually become a boiler? And that that boiler would have the power to move unthinkable payloads up and downstream? And that those payloads would enable trade and previously unimaginable lifestyle for the average American?

We, in the 21st century, have the luxury to throw away old socks and t-shirts. Cotton products have become so accessible they are practically disposable. We do not know or remember that our ancestors may have experienced the incredible comfort of cotton articles from the South for the first time because of this steamboat’s success. Conversely, those in the South were likely amazed at the beautiful white flour Minnesota could send them so affordably.

Lord, we don’t often pause to remember what it’s like to do without. We do not see the masterful design of a plain white cotton t-shirt, or ponder that in past generations, it was a garment fit for a king. Or that the greatest chefs of Paris were astounded at the silky wheat flour from some unknown place called Minnesota. It was “Incroyable”!

Incredible Dreamer, thanks that You are not offended by our inventions! Thanks that this steamboat enabled Beltrami to better share his discoveries with a much wider audience. Ultimately, thanks that You take pleasure in our discoveries! May this river valley yield new discoveries and discoverers who make the impossible possible! (Just like You!)

*Note – PrayThroughHistory uses the timeline located for several years at the Minnesota Historical Society Web site, at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm .  The current URL is www.dipity.com/Minnesota/History/Minnesota-History/ and only works if typed, not pasted, in browser. It is worth the effort!

** http://www.winonahistory.org/sesqui/steam/

 

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