Monday, November 29, 2010

66 years ago today...

on 29 November, 1944, Dr Alfred Blalock, Dr Helen Taussig (yes, a woman) and Vivien Thomas (a black man) performed the first Blalock-Taussig shunt operation at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

the shunt was designed to help "blue babies," wee ones with a CHD known as Tetralogy of Fallot. in ToF, there are several issues:

  1. pulmonary stenosis. the pulmonary artery carries de-oxygenated (blue) blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs. with PS, the opening to that artery is too small and restricts blood flow to the lungs.
  2. VSD, a hole between the two pumping chambers. this allows blue blood to pass over to the left side of the heart and mix with the red blood and travel out to the body.
  3. right ventricular hypertrophy. the right ventricle has to work harder than usual to overcompensate for the PS and VSD.
  4. overriding aorta. this exacerbates the VSD and allows more blue and red blood to mix and travel to the body.
at this point in history, in 1944, there was no open heart surgery for these babies yet... that would come much later. and actually, up until this day, there was nothing at all that could be done for babies with severely wonky hearts. nothing. this procedure was the first of its kind, anywhere, ever. 

if you're interested in learning more about the surgery, including how to do it, click here. this will take you to a site which will teach you about ToF, and you can do the surgery yourself, in a cyberish kind of way. it's amazing, it really is!

this procedure is not what Asher had. Asher had a modified (or reverse) BT shunt, which went from his MPA (main pulmonary artery, right before it branches off to the lungs) to his proximal innominate artery, allowing most of the blood to by-pass his lungs and go out to his body.

but without this first procedure 66 years ago, Asher would never have survived beyond his diagnosis. there would have been no hope for him at all. and yet...

here he is.

almost 4.

(and for the record, i know of many people with ToF. you can click on Anniek's blog on the sidebar to read her story. and in addition to Anniek, there are two people at my church with tetralogy: a father and son. yes, the father has it, too. i've met him. he's an adult, and if you met him, you'd never know he has a wonky heart. simply amazing. and when you consider that these people would not be here today without this first surgery so very long ago... awesome. just awesome.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We're inpatient right now and there's another one there with ToF (we're not) that just had some type of "experimental" surgery that they said didn't go well; just wondering why they didn't do this; are they not doing this anymore? do you know