The first Sunday of the year came with a warm invitation from the minister for a new heart. This solicited smiles as we were of the impression that we were in for a heart transplant. Indeed our impression was proven right when the first film clip shown to catch attention came from the movie, “Something the Lord Made”, which tells the story of beginnings of the research and development of the medical procedure that deals with surgically intervening with the heart.
For a new heart in the coming year, we need undergo a trial and error process in making the necessary adjustments to our heart toward become a better person. Each person is unique and thus to acquire that new heart we need not be afraid to experiment on what works for us or not. This was illustrated in the movie when Dr. Alfred Blalock hired Vivien Thomas, a black man in the 1930s (when racism was strong), as a janitor but proves himself adept at assisting the doctor with his medical research or trial and error process in their study of infant heart disease.
Next we need to be willing and able to leave the past in our effort to have a new heart. The past will always be the past and the implication of history does have bearing on one life's journey in the present, as well as, into the future. What we need to leave in the past is that which hinders our current walk of acquiring a new heart on a better person. In the movie, when Dr. Blalock was invited to join Johns Hopkins University, he insisted on Mr. Thomas joining him, which meant uprooting Thomas family to live in a very racist system while continuing their research work.
Those only who try will succeed. This I find a law of life that holds true for everyone. We have to continue to try while we are still able to try until the opportunity is gone. The time to try for a surgical intervention came when Dr. Helen Tausig the pediatrician/cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, challenges Blalock to come up with a surgical solution for her Blue Babies. She needs a new ductus i.e.,key arterial shunt for them to oxygenate their blood.
The research work involves experimenting on stray dogs they got from the local dog pound, deliberately giving the dogs the heart defect and trying to solve it. The outcome looks good and they are excited to operate on a baby with the defect, but in a dream, Thomas sees the baby grown up and crying because she's dying. Thomas asks why she's dying in the dream and she says it's because she has a baby heart. Blalock interprets it as the fact that their sewing technique didn't work because the sutures didn't grow with the heart, and worked on a new version that would work.
Blalock praises Thomas' surgical skill as being "like something the Lord made", and insists that Thomas coach him through the first Blue Baby surgery over the protests of Hopkins administrators. The first operation was a success and thus born to the medical world know as A Blalock - Tausig shunt. A surgical procedure that helps improve oxygenation of the blood. Notice that the contribution of Vivien Thomas was ignored.
A new heart requires that we be honest enough to put and acknowledge all the people on your team.
The other young doctors went to Vivien Thomas requesting the black janitor/research laboratory assistant to train them in heart surgery. John Hopkins Hospital acknowledges this reality and awards Vivien Thomas an honorary doctorate degree and allowed him to continue the training of future heart surgeons. In recognition of his contribution to medicine, a portrait of Thomas was placed on the walls of Johns Hopkins next to Blalock's portrait.
Finally we need to learn not to personalize our disappointments. This is seen in the life and work of Viviene Thomas, who kept his peace with the hurt and disappointments brought about by racism. But he continued his journey and accomplished his mission here on earth with great success. The medical procedure has been renamed Blalock-Tausig-Thomas shunt.
Let us end with the following story to help us in our own heart transplant. "Tomorrow morning," the surgeon began, "I'll open up your heart..." "You'll find Jesus there," the boy interrupted. The surgeon looked up, annoyed "I'll cut your heart open," he continued, to see how much damage has been done..." "But when you open up my heart, you'll find Jesus in there," said the boy. The surgeon looked to the parents, who sat quietly. "When I see how much damage has been done, I'll sew your heart and chest back up, and I'll plan what to do next." "But you'll find Jesus in my heart. The Bible says He lives there. The hymns all say He lives there. You'll find Him in my heart." The surgeon had had enough. "I'll tell you what I'll find in your heart. I'll find damaged muscle, low blood supply, and weakened vessels. And I'll find out if I can make you well." "You'll find Jesus there too. He lives there." The surgeon left.
The surgeon sat in his office, recording his notes from the surgery, "...damaged aorta, damaged pulmonary vein, widespread muscle degeneration. No hope for transplant, no hope for cure. Therapy: painkillers and bed rest. Prognosis: here he paused, "death within one year." He stopped the recorder, but there was more to be said. "Why?" he asked aloud. "Why did You do this? You've put him here; You've put him in this pain; and You've cursed him to an early death. Why?" The Lord answered and said, "The boy, My lamb, was not meant for your flock for long, for he is a part of My flock, and will forever be. Here, in My flock, he will feel no pain, and will be comforted as you cannot imagine. His parents will one day join him here, and they will know peace, and My flock will continue to grow." The surgeon's tears were hot, but his anger was hotter. "You created that boy, and You created that heart. He'll be dead in months. Why?" The Lord answered, "The boy, My lamb, shall return to My flock, for He has Done his duty: I did not put My lamb with your flock to lose him, but to retrieve another lost lamb." The surgeon wept… The surgeon sat beside the boy's bed; the boy's parents sat across from him. The boy awoke and whispered, "Did you cut open my heart?" "Yes," said the surgeon. "What did you find?" asked the boy. "I found Jesus there," said the surgeon.*