Dr. Wes recently reported on an article he found in The New York Times about one of the first uses of a “Defibrillator” to restart a human heart. Both the Times and Dr. Wes place the word Defibrillator in quotes because… well, things didn’t turn out so great.

The year was 1948 and a gentleman named William McCullic was having an operation in Trenton, New Jersey. Things went horribly wrong when, in the midst of the operation, Mr. McCullic experienced Ventricular Fibrillation, sometimes called V-Fib.

Uncorrected V-Fib can be fatal in less than five minutes. The surgeon took over, keeping the heart going by squeezing it with his hand. Meanwhile, operating room staff connected two copper electrodes to an electric lamp, plugged it in, and then touched the leads to the injured heart.


Somehow it worked! The heart regained a normal rhythm! The surgeon decided that was enough tempting fate for one day and closed the incision… and poor Mr. McCullic died four hours later.

Needless to say, the surgeon “requested that his name be withheld from publication”. I can’t blame him. I probably would even admit to being in the same state when that disaster took place!

This is why I love Dr. Wes’ blog, reason #186: We both seem to love the history of Cardiology!


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