Dr. Helen Taussig was the first doctor to establish intensive pediatric care; she dedicated her life’s research to a condition called Blue Baby Syndrome.
This is a condition where the babies are born with a heart defect, causing poor blood circulation and giving them the blue skin. Many babies died from this condition as no one knew how to solve the heart problem until Dr. Taussig figured out the solution.
Before she became a doctor, she went completely deaf after she graduated from medical school. Even though she used hearing aids, she was still unable to hear through the stethoscope and instead learned how to use her sense of touch to feel the babies’ heartbeats. “Listen with your fingers,” she famously said about her career.
Dr. Taussig was able to accurately diagnose the babies’ heartbeats with just feeling their chests and devoted her life to solving the Blue Baby syndrome. She figured out that a shunt was needed, but didn’t have the actual surgery know-how. That’s where her colleagues, Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas came in.
Left to right: Dr. Helen Taussig, Dr. Alfred Blalock, and Dr. Vivien Thomas
Vivien Thomas was a master surgeon and Alfred Blalock was the Chief of Surgery at the time who was very close with Dr. Thomas, and with Dr. Taussig, the three of them successfully completed the first pediatric heart shunt.
This revolutionary surgery was called the Blalock-Taussig-Thomas shunt, and it saved many babies’ lives. Because of Dr. Taussig’s devotion, Blue Baby syndrome is now a thing of the past.
Bonus: a film was made about this trio called “Something The Lord Made” starring Alan Rickman and Mos Def. The film focuses more on Dr. Blalock and Dr. Thomas with an appearance by Dr. Taussig.