Great history in a minor key
by DowninginReading on November 26, 2010Vivien Thomas will never be listed among the hundred most influential humans of all time. Compared to many whose biographies are written, however, his story shows a man of tremendous character, consummate physical skills, extraordinary luck and life saving achievement that resounds to this day.
Born in New Iberia Parish, LA (well know to James Lee Burke readers), Thomas moved to Nashville early in life. He became a masterful carpenter early, then fatefully applied for a job with Alfred Blalock, M.D., at Vanderbilt University. There he began a career in the experimental surgical lab.
After moving to John Hopkins following some arm twisting by Dr. Blalock, Thomas rose to be head of the lab, teaching generations of surgeons how to operate. He also, among other things, developed the surgical technique Dr. Blalock used to 'cure' the 'blue babies". This operation, which became know as the Blaock-Taussig procedure, revolutionized the world's idea of what could be surgically possible in the treatment of diseases of the heart and great vessels.
An outstanding story, with insights to race, surgery, character and a changing America.
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