Anna saved us all

I’m leavin’ in a minivan,

should be back Wednesday night…

Wait a minute, that doesn’t rhyme. I guess my career as a songwriter isn’t going anywhere.

I’m packed for the trip to Atlanta, the laptop is also packed and the batteries are charged, so I should be able to post tomorrow night. Of course, you’ll get a full report once I return home. I’m feeling good and not expecting any problems, though my weight is up a little bit. So the doc may wave his finger in my face. He won’t have to crack the whip too hard; I don’t like for it to be up either. When you have heart failure, your weight creeping up might mean there is a problem brewing. And even if it doesn’t, your heart has to work harder. That’s not good.

First, here are a couple of links that you need to read: Researchers have discovered that a new type of drug can trigger a heart defect in unborn mice. The chemical in question is fairly common, so if you are planning to have children (or more children), clicking these links would be beneficial!

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; the sky isn’t falling (yet). Taking the results of a research study using unborn mice and saying that we’ve found a way to prevent heart defects is a giant leap, but it is certainly worth continued study.

Is animal research necessary? I have to answer with a resounding “YES!” When he was designing the first congenital heart surgery, Vivien Thomas first had to study the effects of Tetralogy of Fallot (ToF) in a test subject, then figure out a way to correct the defect. Conducting experimental surgery on children with ToF was completely out of the question, so Thomas first had to surgically re-create the defect, then devise a corrective procedure to counter it.

His test subjects were dogs, most of them supplied by the Baltimore City Pound. Thomas is said to have performed heart surgery 200 times or more before Alfred Blalock attempted it on a child, so we must assume that most of those operations were failures. The dogs almost certainly perished.

Finally Thomas figured it out, and not only did the dog (a “mutt” named Anna) survive the procedure that “gave” her a defective heart, she made it through the operation that corrected it. Thomas then taught Blalock the operation (again, on a canine test subject) and on November 29, 1944, with Thomas standing behind him giving him guidence and advice, Blalock performed the first operation designed to relieve a Congenital Heart Defect. (Click this link for a “Who’s Who” in the operating room!) The operation eventually became known as the Blalock-Taussig Shunt. Anna became the mascot of the Johns Hopkins Surgical Lab and lived there until her death in 1957. She even had her portrait hung in the Hospital.

While animal research may be necessary; animal cruelty is not. My personal rule of thumb is “Would I do this to my family pet?” If the answer is no, then that test is not done. (And this standard can be subjective; my dog is not my pet, she is a member of the family. A neighbor who owns hunting dogs does not think of them as his pets, rather they are “tools”. Their main purpose is to do a job: Tracking deer.) So even going by my own rule, Thomas would have never invented cardiac surgery. Because I couldn’t do that to my dog.

So now, all I’ve done is muddied the water! While you are contemplating the fine line between animal research and animal cruelety, carry a couple of doggie biscuts in your pocket and be sure to toss one to a stray. Because if it wasn’t for a mutt named Anna, none of us with a heart defect would be here.

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2 Responses to “Anna saved us all”

  1. Kerri Pennington Says:

    Hi, I hope you don’t mind that I linked to your blog from my own. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments, stories and opinions! My little girl was born with HLHS, and it is fabulous to get an adult prospective! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Kerri Pennington

    P.S. A friend and another heart mom from Washington State sent me a link to your blog and mentioned that you are from SC. Is this so? We, too, are from SC. Just wondering where you see a cardiologist. Thanks so much!

  2. 22m.org Says:

    […] Anna saved us all […]

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