And now for a quick round of trivial pursuit:
“The first open-heart surgery was done in which of the following years?”
If you said 1891, then you probably know all about Daniel Hale Williams, but I had no idea it had been a 19th century accomplishment. Dr. Williams, an African-American born in Pennsylvania, wasn’t the first to try cardiac surgery, but he was the first surgeon whose patient survived the operation without dying of an infection. The surgery, done on this date, was done without anesthetic. We’ve really gotten soft.
Born into a large family, sent out to work at an early age after his father died, he was eventually apprenticed to a barber. But after he got a job as a barber in Wisconsin – living with the family that owned the shop – he managed to get an education there and then was apprenticed to a surgeon, a Dr. Palmer. The doctor must have been an excellent teacher – Williams was one of three of his apprentices and all were accepted to the medical school at Northwestern.
Dr. Williams went on to found the Provident Hospital in Chicago – the first unsegregated hospital in the country – and he started a training school for African-American nurses. He was a charter member of the American College of Surgeons and its only African-American.
In short, he was quite a guy – his story would make a great movie. . .
* * *
This will be a birthday to celebrate in the future, one hopes for many years to come. Today the country of South Sudan comes into being after a long gestation and difficult birth. Let’s wish them well.