Tara has taught staff nursing courses and has a master's degree in public health.
There are so many amazing life-saving surgical procedures that save countless lives every day. Have you ever wondered who came up with the idea to do these procedures, or how they figured out that they would work? Like with any type of invention a great amount of creativity, experimentation, and effort goes into developing these medical breakthroughs. Today, we are going to discuss the life and work of one of these great medical inventors, Alfred Blalock.
The Personal Life of Alfred Blalock
Alfred Blalock was born on April 5th, 1899 in Georgia. He had the great fortune to be born into a wealthy family. His father was a successful businessman, but as Blalock became older, he decided he didn't want to pursue a career in his father's footsteps. Instead, he chose a medical career. He obtained his degree from John Hopkins School of Medicine and went on to eventually narrow his scope to surgery. In 1930, he married Mary Chambers O'Bryan and had three children with her. Unfortunately, Mary passed away after multiple respiratory issues. After her death, Blalock married Alice Waters. Waters had been a beloved neighbor to the Blalocks prior to Mary's passing. Blalock's personal hobbies included fishing, boating, tennis, and golfing. Dr. Blalock passed away at the young age of 65 years old after a battle with cancer. Throughout his life, his health had not always been great. He suffered many battles with tuberculosis.
The Work and Medical Discoveries of Alfred Blalock
Blalock contributed a great deal to the medical community. He is most noted for his research into shock and Tetralogy of Fallot. He made huge discoveries that helped patients suffering from each of these horrible conditions. To provide some clarification shock is defined as a condition typically caused by a sudden decrease in blood flow throughout the body. Due to this rapid decrease in blood flow, oxygen cannot properly be delivered to the body's cells. He discovered shock during some experiments he was conducting on lab animals. He noticed that the lab animals that lost a lot of blood during surgery became very unstable and did poorly. He developed the concept of delivering blood transfusions to patients who lost blood and went into shock. Through this treatment, he was able to save many victims, particularly those who became injured on the battlefield.
Blalock's other major discovery was the treatment for a serious condition known as Tetralogy of Fallot or Blue Baby Syndrome. Tetralogy of Fallot is a condition that some babies are born with that affects the heart. These birth defects in the heart result in the heart pumping blood that doesn't have enough oxygen in it. Therefore, these babies lack the important oxygen supply they need to thrive. Blalock was able to create a surgical procedure that fixed these defects and saved many babies. His work paved the way to many life-saving heart surgeries that are done today. However, his initial work in this field wasn't always successful. The first operation he performed to fix Blue Baby Syndrome failed, and the child passed within a year. Blalock felt as though he was a failure many times prior to seeing the success of his work.
Blalock's Work Made Famous
In the year 2004, a film was made entitled 'Something the Lord Made'. This film was about the life and work of Dr. Alfred Blalock and his surgical assistant. The film revolved around the journey of their discoveries and the challenges they faced. Blalock's character is quoted in the film saying, 'You can't separate the past from the future any more than you can separate your right arm from your left'. It has not been officially determined if Blalock actually said these words, but they are intended to depict his passion for progress in his field. The Elizabeth Presbyterian Church even used parts of this film to teach lessons about journeying through life.
Blalock's great discoveries in the treatment of shock and Tetralogy of Fallot have made him a pioneer in the surgical field. His love of science and medicine allowed him to create life-saving procedures that impacted many in the world. His work has become more well-known in modern times with the help of the film industry.
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