The Guardian Angels

They were scared to death.

The nurses of the new heart surgery team at Dayton, Ohio’s Good Samaritan Hospital had practiced, studied, and thought they were ready. But still they doubted – they were walking into uncertain waters, and one mistake could cost a a child her life.

So after a sleepless night, most of them stopped by the hospital chapel before reporting to duty. And on Wednesday morning, July 16, 1959, they all assisted in Dayton’s first open heart surgery – a seven hour operation to repair a hole in a 9 year old girl’s heart.

The operation required the services of six doctors, six nurses, and three technicians. The technicians were probably in charge of the new heart-lung machine. The machine was funded, in part, through an unusual source: the proceeds from “High Fever Follies”, a talent show!

The operation was a success, and that original nursing team recently attended a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of that first operation. Age has caught up with everyone – the young patient passed away in the year 2000 – and Good Samaritan has changed. The hospital just opened a $31 million dollar facility dedicated to heart care. A heart attack victim being brought into the hospital can be in the Catherization lab having a life saving angioplasty within 90 minutes of arrival.

And Guardian Angels still patrol the halls of “Good Sam” – the decendants of that original group who stopped by the chapel that July morning fifty years ago.

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