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Cardiac Pioneers: The Loons of Medical History

Posted Oct 22 2008 6:19pm 1 Comment
I have only just begun to explore the history of cardiology and cardiac thoracic surgery and, considering my childish grasp on the nature of biology coupled with my rudimentary understanding of basic anatomy, I have been incredibly surprised to discover my recent fascination with it. You would think this fascination would lead to an increased understanding of the field, but instead it really has just provided me with lots of obscure triva. In fact, when asked about normal heart functioning (which, again with the surprises, people have actually askedmoi ) , my standard response still is "Magic". As an aside, everytime I say that a little part of my oddly and oh so nerdly science oriented husband dies inside and Dr. G. hangs his head in shame... Poor guys.

But I digress. Will wonders never cease?

My fascination with the history of cardiology lies in the fact that these medical pioneers; these men and occasionally women whose legacy would save my son's life; these heroes of science, were insane. Total loons. They got their crazy on in a way I can only dream about.

Point in case: Werner Forssmann, the first man to perform a cardiac catheterization on a human being.

As a young surgical resident in Germany, Forssmann had been struggling to find a way to safely inject resuscitation medication into the heart during a period in medicine which defined entry into the heart as fatal. Period. It was for this goal that Forssmann developed the theory of cardiac catheterization, but was forbidden to attempt the experimental procedure on real live breathing people...for obvious reasons. So what did this innovative father of cardiac medicine do?

He did it on himself.

Oh my god.

In 1929 he anesthetized his elbow, inserted a cannula into his own antecubital vein, pushed a catheter through it until he felt it hit his right atrium, then marched himself over to an Xray machine and took a pretty picture of it to prove his success. Plus, the fact that he was still alive was a pretty good indicator that he had been right all along.

See? Total loon.

And what did he receive for his momentous discovery? A pink slip and was ostracized by the cardiac community for the next decade. They thought he was looney tunes too...

He did get his props in the end. Obviously his research pushed cardiology into a new era and was the basis for the field as we know it today. To date Gabe has already had two cardiac catheterizations performed and one of them saved his life. In 1956 Forssmann was awarded, together with André Cournand and Dickinson W. Richards, the Nobel Prize for Physiology.

One may compare the art of healing with a work of art, which from different standpoints and under different lighting reveals ever new and surprising beauty.

You can read the rest of his Noble Lecture here.

Me? I thank the gos every day for all the loons in medicine. If they hadn't gotten their crazy on, the world would be a very, very different place.

A lonely place.
Comments (1)
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that's wierd.  I think he is drunk..Crazy I guess..  Why he did not go to the hospital to assist a catheter.  Doctors are very important we should not experiments our body.  We are not doctors.  Anyway, I want to be a doctor...i want to heal illness and doll up with adar lab coat...I found in very elegant and fabulous...LOL..

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