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Reclaimed Lives

Reclaimed Lives: Patient Experiences

Thousands of children born with the Tetralogy of Fallot received life-saving treatment through the procedure now known as the Blalock-Taussig-Thomas Shunt. Their miraculous survival was celebrated in daily newspapers, newsreels, and on the pages of LIFE magazine, where Blalock appeared as a larger-than-life hero and photogenic young patients glowed with restored health.

Patients and their families were profoundly affected by their experience at Hopkins. In their enthusiasm for the procedure, they wrote letters to Blalock and Taussig, made scrapbooks of blue baby news stories, and shared photographs and films of their healthy children. One couple cut together home movies of their son, Jimmy, to show how his worsening heart condition endangered his life, and the fast recovery he made after surgery.

As these children grew up, some kept in touch with their Hopkins care providers. Influenced by her early illness and recovery, Mary Joyner became a pediatric nurse. Michael Schirmer, who became a beloved local magician, returned to Hopkins in 2010 to discuss the personal meaning of the procedure that Blalock, Thomas, and Taussig developed.