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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20th Century, Health, History, Minnesota, omnipresent history, Uncategorized, women

Sister Kenny Comes to Minnesota

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June 1940
Elizabeth Kenny, the daughter of Michael and Mary Kenny, was born September 20, 1886 in New South Wales, Australia. She received her nursing training at a private hospital and served as a nurse in the Australian bush country from 1911 to 1914. It was during this period that she encountered her first case of infantile paralysis (1909) and developed her treatment for the disease. During World War I Kenny served as an Australian Army nurse and was promoted to the rank of “sister,” the Nurse Corps equivalent to a first lieutenant.*

After the war Kenny returned to civilian nursing. Her treatment and concept of infantile paralysis gained the recognition of the medical profession and the support of the Australian government. Her clinic at Townsville was given government status and Kenny clinics were established throughout Australia.**

In 1911, when she encountered her first case of polio, Sister Kenny was unaware of conventional polio treatment — immobilizing the affected muscles with splints. Instead, she used common sense and her understanding of anatomy to treat the symptoms of the disease. Sister Kenny applied moist hotpacks to help loosen muscles, relieve pain, and enable limbs to be moved, stretched, and strengthened. The theory of her treatment was muscle “re-education” — the retraining of muscles so that they could function again. The medical profession widely opposed her unorthodox methods and brought about a Royal Commission to stop her practicing.***
Kenny came to the U.S. in the spring of 1940 but was disappointed by the cool reception her treatment technique received on the West and East coasts. In June 1940 she demonstrated her treatment at the University of Minnesota Medical School and Minneapolis General Hospital. The medical personnel at these institutions accepted Kenny’s treatment method as an entirely new concept of infantile paralysis and the first American treatment center was opened at Minneapolis General Hospital.
In December 1942, the City of Minneapolis established the Elizabeth Kenny Institute and the following year the Sister Elizabeth Kenny Foundation was formed to financially support the Institute’s work and to forward the teaching of the Kenny method throughout the U.S. and abroad. Sister Kenny’s pioneering principles of muscle rehabilitation became the foundation of physical therapy. Today, Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Services is one of the premier rehabilitation centers in the country, known for its progressive and innovative vision. Elizabeth Kenny died November 30, 1952 at her home in Toowoomba, Australia. **,***

The story of a visionary being misunderstood and opposed by those who should be allied is, unfortunately, not news in human history. My heart sinks as I read about this woman who used up her life in service to those who had lost use of limbs due to polio or other causes. Why are those who serve so often viewed as the enemy by their authorities instead of allies or innovators? Granted, they are responsible for life and death decisions, and this is surely a heavy weight to bear. Lord, will You forgive the judgments of the Royal Commission against Sister Kenny, and give them wisdom in their regulatory decisions?

Will You release her, and all physical therapists’ who followed in her footsteps from this kind of opposition? Will You bless Sister Kenny’s memory in St. Paul and Toowooba? Will You favor her generations, and all professionals who continue to advance the work she started? Will You grant them new ideas and insights to the restoration of the human body?

Lord, to generalize, perhaps the creative forces of medicine are greatly hampered from healing through fear-based laws, and the seeking of permission to heal. What do You say about this in Scripture?

“For no matter how many promises G-d has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of G-d.” 2 Corinthians 1:20 ****

Contextually to the readers of these verses the meaning would be more like “altogether true and entirely free of ambiguity. Will You bless such boards and authorities with insight and revelation to release healing into the world that is “altogether true and entirely free of ambiguity”? Will You shield them from tyranny of the state or the business cycle?

Will You release the medical authorities of her home nation for the initial rejection of her ideas? Will You forgive her any counter-judgments made in the midst of this rejection pain? Will You bless the nation of Australia because of her, and continue her legacy there? Give us many more in Minnesota, Lord, who heal in spite of political or legal disfavor, but heal because they follow the Author of Healing! Amen.

* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Kenny
*** http://www.nurses.info/personalities_srl_kenny.htm

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