A wonderful surgical operation
“Dr. Alexis Carrel, one of the Institute’s staff, has been making some interesting studies in experimental surgery, and has successfully transplanted organs from one animal to another, and blood vessels from one species to another. He had the opportunity recently of applying the skill thus acquired to the saving of a human life under circumstances which attracted great interest among the medical fraternity of this city. One of the best known of the younger surgeons in New York had a child born early last March, which developed a disease in which the blood, for some reason, exudes from the blood vessels into the tissues of the body, and ordinarily the child dies of this internal hemorrhage. When this child was five days old it was evident that it was dying. The father and his brother, who is one of the most distinguished men in the profession, and one or two other doctors were in consultation with reference to it, but considered the case entirely hopeless.
“It so happened that the father had been impressed with the work which Dr. Carrel had been doing at the Institute, and had spent several days with him studying his methods. He became convinced that the only possibility of saving the child’s life was by the direct transfusion of blood. While this has been done between adults, the blood vessels of a young infant are so delicate that it seemed impossible that the operation could be successfully carried on. It is necessary not only that the blood vessels of the two persons should be united together, but it must be done in such a way that the interior lining of the vessels, which is a smooth, shiny tissue, should be continuous. If the blood comes in contact with the muscular coat of the blood vessels, it will clot and stop the circulation.
“Fortunately, Dr. Carrel had been experimenting on the blood vessels of some very young animals, and the father was convinced that if any man in the country could perform the operation successfully, it would be he.
“It was then the middle of the night. But Dr. Carrel was called on, and when the situation was explained to him, and it was made clear that the child would die anyhow, he readily consented to attempt the operation, although expressing very slight hope of its successful outcome.
“The father offered himself as the person whose blood should be furnished to the child. It was impossible to give anaesthetics to either of them. In a child of that age there is only one vein large enough to be used, and that is in the back of the leg, and deep seated. A prominent surgeon who was present exposed this vein. He said afterward that there was no sign of life in the child, and expressed the belief that the child had been, to all intents and purposes, dead for ten minutes. In view of its condition he raised the question whether it was worth while