Breakthrough! How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” and Changed Medicine Forever by Jim Murphy

Published by Clarion Books

Summary: In November, 1944, Dr. Alfred Blalock made history by performing delicate cardiac surgery on 18-month-old Eileen Saxon, repairing heart defects that had caused her “blue baby syndrome”. Standing beside him was Dr. Helen Taussig, a pediatrician who had worked with blue baby patients for many years before recruiting Dr. Blalock to help her.  Although Blalock received most of the fame and celebrity from this groundbreaking operation, the procedure had been developed and refined by his research assistant, Vivien Thomas.  It would be years before Thomas, who was African American, received any credit for his contributions.  Whether this was because of racism or his position as a research assistant instead of a doctor is unclear, but despite this, Thomas continued his hard work and dedication for many years, training many other surgeons at Johns Hopkins.  In 1971, his work there was recognized when his portrait was hung in Blalock Building alongside other great surgeons from that institution.  Back matter includes extensive source notes, a bibliography, and an index.  130 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros: A fascinating look at medical history and the contributions of three unique and interesting individuals.

Cons:  This could be a hard sell in the middle school community.

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