Everything old is new again

We had been at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Hospital for only a few hours, just long enough to be admitted and assigned a room. A nurse and one of the Cardiac Surgical staff were asking us the “usual” admissions questions.

“Do you happen to know what operation you had at Johns Hopkins?” we were asked.

“Yes,” Daddy replied. “It was called the Glenn Shunt.” (We didn’t say the “Classic Glenn Shunt”; the Bidirectional Glenn Shunt had been invented at that time but wasn’t being used much. It wouldn’t become popular until the early 1980’s, and wouldn’t be part of the HLHS repair until the late 1980’s. I had never even heard of the Bidirectional Glenn!)

The Cardiac staffer put down his pen. “The Glenn Shunt… wow. They don’t do that very much any more.”

My eyebrows shot up. The operation that had saved my life was now in the trashbin of history.

“I guess that’s our…” he paused as he thought. “That’s probably the fourth or fifth option. They are pretty hard to take down.”

When you “take down” an operation, you basically undo it. There are times when you have to restore the heart to it’s original configuration (or as close as you can get it) before you attempt another correction. Because the Pulmonary Artery is cut, it’s pretty difficult to unhook it and reconnect it where it is supposed to be.

The true irony of this story wouldn’t be revealed until a week later, when  surgeon Dr. Albert Pacifico cut my Left Subclavian Artery and connected it to the intact branch of the Pulmonary Artery. That’s right – my second operation in 1977 was a repeat of the very first Congenital Heart Surgery:  the Blalock-Taussig Shunt, first done in 1944!

Everything old is new again!

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