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King of Hearts
|The Gliddens could never forget finding her body, cold and rigid in her bed.|
One floor below his son, Lyman Glidden was also headed for surgery. His wife, Frances, had come by to see him off, and as they waited for Lyman to be wheeled away, they were thinking not only of Gregory. They were remembering their daughter LaDonnah, who had been born with the same defect as their little boy. Somehow LaDonnah had survived, in relatively good health, until the age of twelve. Then, in the spring of 1950, she became gravely ill, and one night that September, she died in her sleep.
The Gliddens could never forget finding her body, cold and rigid in her bed.
|Watson already knew that Lillehei had joined the quest to correct extreme defects inside the opened heart -- a race that so far had produced only corpses, in Minneapolis and elsewhere.|
Watson already knew that Lillehei had joined the quest to correct extreme defects inside the opened heart -- a race that so far had produced only corpses, in Minneapolis and elsewhere. He knew of Lillehei's dog research -- of how the surgeon and his young disciples regularly worked past midnight in their makeshift laboratory in the attic of a university building. He'd heard of Lillehei's new open heart technique, in which the circulatory systems of two dogs were connected with a pump and tubes; thus joined, the donor dog supported the life of the patient dog, enabling Lillehei to close off the vessels to the patient dog's heart, open the heart, and repair a life-threatening defect. But until yesterday afternoon, when today's operating schedule had been distributed, Watson did not know that Lillehei -- with Wangensteen's blessing -- was taking cross-circulation into the operating room.
This was madness!
Watson went to University Hospital's director, who alone had authority to stop an operation. The director summoned Wangensteen, and the three men had it out.
How could such an experiment be allowed? Watson demanded to know. For the first time in history, one operation had the potential to kill two people. Yet, paradoxically, how could the Gliddens refuse? They lived in the north woods of Minnesota, where Lyman worked the mines and Frances stayed home with their many children. They lacked the guidance of a human-experimentation committee, for none existed in 1954. They would never consult a lawyer, for they were willing to try almost anything to spare their baby their dead daughter's fate.
And was it any wonder that Wangensteen had blessed Lillehei? Of all the resplendent surgeons on Wangensteen's staff, Lillehei was unquestionably the crown prince -- the most likely to bring the University of Minnesota a Nobel prize, which the chief of surgery all but craved. Blue-eyed and blonde -- a man who liked all-night jazz clubs and pretty women -- brilliant Walt could do no wrong in Owen's eyes.
The chief of medicine was appalled. Had they forgotten the girl who had preceded Gregory Glidden in University Hospital's Room II, poor Patty Anderson, who'd been lost in a river of blood?
Asleep, Gregory was stripped of his gown and left naked under the glare of hot lights. How small he was -- smaller than a pillow, smaller than most laboratory dogs. His heart would be a trifle, his vessels thin as twine.
|Asleep, Gregory was stripped of his gown and left naked under the glare of hot lights. How small he was -- smaller than a pillow, smaller than most laboratory dogs. His heart would be a trifle, his vessels thin as twine.|
The people with him were.
Lillehei washed Gregory's chest with surgical soap. With a scalpel, he cut left-to-right on a line just below the nipples.
Observers in Room II's balcony leaned forward for a better look. On the operating room floor, a crowd of interns and residents climbed up on stools.
Lillehei split the sternum, the bone that joins the ribs, and opened a window into Gregory with a retractor.
Nestled between his lungs, Gregory's plum-colored little heart came into view. It was noisy; with his hand, Lillehei felt an abnormal vibration.
Still, the outside anatomy appeared normal: the great vessels were in their proper places, with no unnatural connections between. So far, no surprises.
It looks okay, Lillehei said. You may bring in the father now.