Many heads were turned as Vivien Thomas wore his white lab coat and walked past them in the halls of Hopkins. His grandfather was a slave, and he spent his lifetime in racially segregated institutions, from primary school to his prestigious career at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Eventually, Dr. Blalock lobbied on his behalf and his pay increased. In the early 1940’s, Vivien moved with Alfred to Johns Hopkins University. Search The blue baby syndrome had made her lips and fingers turn blue, with the rest of her skin having a very faint blue tinge. But Vivien Thomas was a pivotal player in the development of a true breakthrough at The Johns Hopkins Hospital just 60 years ago. Vivien Thomas was son to a carpenter and grandson to a slave. The team consisted of surgeon Alfred Blalock (1899-1964), pediatric cardiologist Helen B. Taussig (1898-1986), and surgical technician Vivien T. Thomas (1910-1985). After Vivien Thomas graduated from high school, he planned to attend college, then medical school to become a doctor. But ultimately the fact that Thomas was black didn’t matter either. Many members of the racially segregated hospital were incensed that a black man was allowed such leeway, and most doubted his capabilities. He helped develop treatments for blue baby syndrome during the 1940s. It was Vivien Thomas’ job to create the condition in laboratory dogs and to perform the surgical procedure to correct the condition. Visitors’ eyes widened at the sight of a black man running the lab. Theodora Aidoo is a young woman who is passionate about women-related issues. There were no ‘cardiac experts’ then. Thomas collaborated with Blalock and Dr. Helen Taussig to create a technique that delivered more oxygen to the blood and relieved constriction caused by a heart defect. 1. Blalock and Thomas realized that the solution to blue baby syndrome was based on a procedure they had perfected in their work at Vanderbilt which increased blood flow to the lungs. Directed by Joseph Sargent. They developed a number of novel animal models. Vivien was instrumental to preparing experiments and for the surgery itself. Vivien Thomas was born in Louisiana. Vivien Thomas said, "Our first attack on the Surgeon, Alfred Blalock Vivien Thomas died November 26, 1985 of pancreatic cancer, but his contribution to medicine and to black history is documented in his autobiography, Partners of the Heart: Vivien Thomas and his Work with Alfred Blalock, the PBS documentary Partners of the Heart (2003), and the HBO film Something the Lord Made (2004). In 1944, Taussig, surgeon Alfred Blalock, and surgical technician Vivien Thomas developed an operation to correct the congenital heart defect that causes the syndrome. Dr. Blalock learned that Thomas was exceedingly intelligent, and he increased his duties to doctoral level research work. Blue Baby Syndrome is a type of a blood disorder, in which the blood is not able to be oxygenated enough. Vivien Thomas was an African-American lab supervisor who developed a procedure to treat blue baby syndrome. He helped develop treatments for blue baby syndrome during the 1940s. In 1943, Dr. Blalock was asked for a consult by Dr. Helen Taussig . He was hired to assist Dr. Alfred Blalock, and his work consisted of cleaning cages and feeding dogs that were used for laboratory experiments. On November 29, 1944, the procedure was first tried on an eighteen-month-old infant named Eileen Saxon. Thomas helped to develop the procedure used in the "blue baby" operation, first performing it on dogs and later assisting Blalock through the first operations on infants and children. Thomas, an African-American without a college degree, is a gifted mechanic and tool-maker with hands splendidly adept at surgery. All Rights Reserved. Vivien Thomas, a talented carpenter from Nashville, Tennessee who was born in New Iberia, Louisiana on August 29, 1910, created a technique to fix ‘Blue Baby Syndrome’ via heart surgery. Vivien Theodore Thomas: co-creator of the first surgical treatment for Blue-Baby Syndrome. He only had a high school education, but he did not let racism, poverty, or lack of schooling stop him from attaining great competence in the field of cardiac surgery. This fact was revealed in Thomas’s autobiography published in 1985 “Partners of the Heart: Vivien Thomas and His Work with Alfred Blalock: An Autobiography”. Dr. Taussig was researching a cure for tetralogy of Fallot, which is a cardiac anomaly that causes babies to display a blue color (hence the term “blue baby syndrome… The pair completed two more successful surgeries, and Dr. Blalock received worldwide recognition – while Vivien Thomas was never mentioned. Blue-baby syndrome, or blue baby is usually caused by a heart defect which laymen often call "a hole in the heart". The 1,000th Blue Baby operation was a happy occasion for Vivien Thomas and surgeon Alfred Blalock, who is pictured here with one of the babies in a Yousef Karsh portrait. At Vanderbilt University, Vivien Thomas and Dr. Alfred Blalock produced groundbreaking research in the area of vascular and cardiac surgery – to which Thomas was highly instrumental. Thomas went on to train so many surgical residents in his lab at Hopkins, including Drs. His family moved to Nashville, Tennessee where he graduated with honors from Pearl High School. He taught Blalock the technique and also created the surgical instruments to perform the delicate operation. (Sun file photo) 'Technician' showed surgeon what to … Subscribe, Join the conversation Share your thoughts, Enter Email Address A new era in heart surgery began at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1944, when Alfred Blalock, Vivien Thomas, and Helen Taussig debuted a daring procedure that would eventually save thousands of deathly-ill children. “You see,” explains Cooley, “it was Vivien who had worked it all out in the lab, in the canine heart, long before Dr. Blalock did Eileen, the first Blue Baby. Thomas was charged with the task of first creating a blue baby-like condition (cyanosis) in a dog, then correcting the condition by means of the pulmonary-to-subclavian anastomosis. Vivien Thomas, a talented carpenter from Nashville, Tennessee who was born in New Iberia, Louisiana on August 29, 1910, created a technique to fix ‘Blue Baby Syndrome’  via heart surgery. In the early 1940’s, Vivien moved with Alfred to Johns Hopkins University. What mattered was that Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas could do historic things together that neither could do alone”. He was the assistant to surgeon Alfred Blalock in Blalock's experimental animal laboratory at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and later at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Remembering Vivien Thomas, the young black man who invented the "Blue Baby" syndrome treatment - Face2Face Africa Vivien Thomas, a talented carpenter from Nashville, Tennessee who was born in New Iberia, Louisiana on August 29, 1910, created a technique to fix ‘Blue Baby Syndrome’ via heart surgery. Face2Face Africa is black owned and operated. Helen Brooke Taussig is known as the founder of pediatric cardiology for her innovative work on "blue baby" syndrome. Working together with Dr. Helen Taussig, they discovered a treatment for Blue Baby Syndrome. 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