At the end of Thomas's first day, Blalock told Thomas they would do another experiment the next morning. Only their rhythm changed. The partnership lasted 34 years, and together the two men would invent heart surgery. Clara Thomas speaks proudly of her husband’s accomplishments, and matter-of-factly about the recognition that came late in his career. Within three days, Vivien Thomas was performing almost as if he’d been born in the lab, doing arterial punctures on the laboratory dogs and measuring and administering anesthesia. In a slow Texas drawl he says he just loves being bothered about Vivien. In the world in which Thomas had grown up, confrontation could be dangerous for a black man. The procedure we were doing would ordinarily have taken an hour, but it had taken us six or seven hours, on this one dog that had been asleep all that time. Cheating Spouses, Secret Addictions and Identities—Marriages Are Buckling Under Covid Quarantine, 3 Captivating Longreads for a Corona-Free Weekend. Within the lab, they functioned almost as a single mind, as Thomas’s deft hands turned Blalock’s ideas into elegant and detailed experiments. Alone in the lab, Thomas set about replicating the Blue Baby defect in dogs and answering two questions: Would the Vanderbilt procedure relieve cyanosis? Things were getting to the point that it seemed to be a matter of survival.”. It will enhance any encyclopedic page you visit with the magic of the WIKI 2 technology. They understood the line between life inside the lab, where they could drink together in 1930, and life outside, where they could not. The test of their partnership was not long in coming. . “I don’t know how you feel about it,” he said as Blalock mulled over post-retirement offers from around the country, “but I’d just as soon you not include me in any of those plans. I never had to repeat or redo another assignment.”. His years at Vanderbilt didn’t just give Blalock a chance to do research and grow as a scientist, though; the university also introduced him to Vivien Thomas. I feel as independent as I did in our earlier years, and I want you to be just as free in making your plans.”, “Thank you, Vivien,” Blalock said, then admitted he had no idea where he would go or what he would do after his retirement. For the Hopkins cardiac team headed by Drs. The hospital had segregated restrooms and a back entrance for black patients. From inside a patient’s body, it monitors the heartbeat, shocking the heart back into normal rhythm each time it fibrillates. In his four years with Blalock, Thomas had assumed the role of a senior research fellow, with neither a PhD nor an MD. When several paydays later Thomas and his coworker received salary increases, neither knew whether he had been reclassified as a technician or just given more money because Blalock demanded it. “Mr. Though Thomas' intelligence, dexterity and determination were critical to Blalock's success, it was over 25 years before he was given proper public credit for his role in devising the Blue Baby surgery. It was Thomas who made the first move toward cutting the ties, but in the act of releasing Blalock from obligation he acknowledged how inextricably their fortunes were intertwined. He helped develop treatments for blue baby syndrome during the 1940s. Shortly after noon, the foreman came by to inspect. In such small arteries, a fraction of a millimeter was critical, and the direction of the sutures determined whether the inside of the vessels would knit properly. Taussig’s question was asked in 1943, and for more than a year it consumed Blalock and Thomas, both by then working in the Army’s shock research program. Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas: Their names intertwine, their partnership overshadowing the individual legacies they handed down to dozens of Hallers and Caspers. From that moment, money ceased to be an issue. In fall 2004, the Baltimore City Public School System opened the Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy. The offer on the card left Thomas speechless: The trustees had doubled his salary and created a new bracket for non-degreed personnel deserving higher pay. Thomas received no mention. that for the type of work I was doing, I felt I should be . In 1933, Vivien Thomas married Clara Flanders Thomas and had two daughters, Theodosia and Olga.  During the surgery itself, at Blalock's request, Thomas stood on a step stool at Blalock's shoulder and coached him step by step through the procedure. Having learned about Thomas on the day of his death, Washingtonian writer Katie McCabe brought his story to public attention in a 1989 article entitled "Like Something the Lord Made", which won the 1990 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing and inspired the PBS documentary Partners of the Heart, which was broadcast in 2003 on PBS's American Experience and won the Organization of American Historians's Erik Barnouw Award for Best History Documentary in 2004. “Well, finally, the resident realized that the dog hadn’t had any fluids intravenously, so he called over to Vivien, ‘Vivien, would you come over and administer some I-V fluids?’ Now, the whole time Vivien had been watching us out of the corner of his eye from across the lab, not saying a word, but not missing a thing, either. In 1930, Vivien Thomas was a nineteen-year-old carpenter’s apprentice with his sights set on Tennessee State College and then medical school. Education:Attended Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College. He was not scrubbed in as an assistant, and he never touched the patients. On the one hand, he defended his choice of Thomas to his superiors at Vanderbilt and to Hopkins colleagues, and he insisted that Thomas accompany him in the operating room during the first series of tetralogy operations. He had spent some time observing Vivien and working with him. From his spot at Blalock’s shoulder in the operating room, Thomas would race to the wards, where he would take arterial blood samples on the Blue Babies scheduled for surgery, hand off the samples to another technician in the hallway, return to the heart room for the next operation, head for the lab to begin the blood-oxygen studies, then go back to his spot in the OR. A bank failure during the … “He was strictly no-nonsense about the way he ran that lab,” Haller says. Blalock saw the same quality in Thomas, who exuded a no-nonsense attitude he had absorbed from his hard-working father. Each man got more than he bargained for.  Thomas performed the operation hundreds of times on a dog, whereas Blalock only once as Thomas' assistant. When they came to Hopkins, they brought with them solutions to the problems of shock that would save many wounded soldiers in World War II. Realizing that he would be 50 years old by the time he completed college and medical school, Thomas decided to give up the idea of further education. Following his retirement in 1979, Thomas began work on an autobiography, Partners of the Heart: Vivien Thomas and his Work with Alfred Blalock, ISBN 0-8122-1634-2. After all, Thomas had done the procedure dozens of times; Blalock only once, as Vivien’s assistant. After a day of house-hunting in Baltimore, he thought he might have to. “Is this all right, Vivien?” Blalock asked as he began joining the smooth inner linings of the two arteries. The procedure had not produced the hypertension model they had sought, but it had rerouted the arterial blood into the lungs. But the 30-year-old surgeon who showed Thomas into his office was even then, Thomas said, “a man who knew exactly what he wanted.”. “Will the subclavian reach the pulmonary once it’s cut off and divided?” he asked. And they brought five dogs, whose rebuilt hearts held the answer to a question no one yet had asked. It was Thomas who remained, the one constant. “I might make Dr. Blalock nervous—or even worse, he might make me nervous!”. In the hectic Blue Baby years, Blalock would leave his hospital responsibilities at the door of the Old Hunterian at noon and closet himself with Thomas for a five-minute research update. I turned to him at the end of it and said, ‘I certainly appreciated the way you solved that problem. Thousands of DC Twentysomethings Live in Group Houses. The satisfaction of making a public racial statement was a luxury Thomas would not have for decades, and even then he would make his point quietly. By 1940, Blalock’s research had put him head and shoulders above any young surgeon in America. View VIVIEN THOMAS's notice to leave tributes, photos, videos, light candles and for funeral arrangements Skip to Add Tribute Skip to Content While you enjoy our new look and all the great new features, rest assured that we haven’t changed any of the 4.7 million notices or … According to the caption, the photograph was taken in 1979 in front of the hospital’s Broadway entrance. One look inside the instrument cabinet told him that he was in the surgical Dark Ages. But “might” wasn’t good enough. “That’s what I took from Vivien,” he says, “simplicity. There was no provision in Hopkins’s salary classification for an anomaly like Thomas: a non-degreed technician with the responsibilities of a postdoctoral research fellow.  This work later evolved into research on crush syndrome and saved the lives of thousands of soldiers on the battlefields of World War II. One after another, cyanotic children who had never been able to sit upright began standing at their crib rails, pink and healthy. Post his death, various awards and scholarships were given in his name to deserving people, such as the Vivien Thomas Young Investigator Awards that was started in 1996. The hospital’s policy against hiring blacks was inflexible. Heart presenting a tetralogy of Fallot. He and Thomas were a package deal, Blalock told the powers at Henry Ford. In 1976, Johns Hopkins University presented Thomas with an honorary doctorate. At 5 PM, when everyone else was leaving, Thomas and “The Professor” prepared to work on into the night—Thomas setting up the treasured Van Slyke machine used to measure blood oxygen, Blalock starting the siphon on the ten-gallon charred keg of whiskey he kept hidden in the laboratory storeroom during Prohibition. Visitors’ eyes widened at the sight of a black man running the lab. Coached by Blalock’s young research fellow, Dr. Joseph Beard, Thomas mastered anatomy and physiology, and he plunged into Blalock’s round-the-clock research. If he were drafted, it would be to his advantage to be at Hopkins, Thomas decided, because he would probably be placed with a medical unit. Neither one was to cross that line. Five years later, the recognition of Vivien Thomas’s achievements was complete when Johns Hopkins awarded him an honorary doctorate and an appointment to the medical-school faculty. A dramatization of the relationship between heart surgery pioneers Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas. Blalock was a great scientist, a great thinker, a leader,” explains Denton Cooley, “but by no stretch of the imagination could he be considered a great cutting surgeon. A Change of Heart: Vivien Thomas and the Blue Baby, The Unknown Black Heroes Who Saved Thousands of Lives, NHD Nationals 2016 -- Vivien Thomas and the Blue Babies, Something the Lord Made (The1st Heart Surgeon). The Old Hunterian, too, had been replaced by a state-of-the-art research facility.  Thomas arrived in Baltimore with his family in June of that year, confronting a severe housing shortage and a level of racism worse than they had endured in Nashville. Thomas knew the famous Blue Baby doctor the world could not see: a profoundly conscientious surgeon, devastated by patient mortality and keenly aware of his own limitations. “The Professor and I just looked at each other. In 1968, the surgeons Thomas trained â who had then become chiefs of surgical departments throughout America â commissioned the painting of his portrait (by Bob Gee, oil on canvas, 1969, The Johns Hopkins Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives) and arranged to have it hung next to Blalock's in the lobby of the Alfred Blalock Clinical Sciences Building. He told me, ‘Vivien, all the easy things have been done.’ ”. Along the way, Thomas and Blalock grew old together, Thomas gracefully, Blalock more reluctantly. Suture silk for human arteries didn’t exist, so they made do with the silk Thomas had used in the lab—as well as the lab’s clamps, forceps, and right-angle nerve hook. His family moved to Nashville, where Vivien graduated with honors from Pearl High School, one of the country's top high schools. In the end, it was World War II that caused Thomas to “take his chances” with Blalock. Thomas's more notable work involves aiding in the discovery of the cause of traumatic shock, designing and guiding the first operation to treat Tetralogy … It seemed that they were stuck. Blalock told Thomas, “Let’s face it, Vivien, we’re getting older. Coronavirus Update. Weeks after the last research project had been ended, Blalock and Thomas made one final trip to the “heart room”—not the Room 706 of the early days, but a glistening new surgical suite Blalock had built with money from the now well-filled coffers of the department of surgery. Meanwhile, he worked hard, making himself indispensable to Blalock, and in so doing he gained a powerful ally within the system. Vivien’s older brother, Harold, had been a school teacher in Nashville. Blalock’s guilt was in no way diminished by his knowing that even with a medical degree, Thomas stood little chance of achieving the prominence of an Old Hand. Besides, it was Blalock, 60 years old, recently widowed and in failing health, who was feeling old, not Thomas, then only 49. As the hectic pace of the late ’40s slowed in the early ’50s, the hurried noon visits and evening phone conversations gave way to long, relaxed exchanges through the open door between lab and office. . For days, he went over the specimens—tiny hearts so deformed they didn’t even look like hearts. This is about Vivien Thomas. Then the perspiring Professor would complete the procedure, venting his tension with a whine so distinctive that a generation of surgeons still imitate it. Thomas's surgical techniques included one he developed in 1946 for improving circulation in patients whose great vessels (the aorta and the pulmonary artery) were transposed. He was married to Clara Beatrice Flanders. . It was the admiration and affection of the men he trained that Thomas valued most. Right subclavian artery and right pulmonary artery into the hospital on his own,! 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