Originally published in Volume 43 Issue 6 of Artificial Organs, 23 April 2019
I graduated from Tufts University School of Medicine in 1966. During my student years, I had little academic exposure to the developing field of artificial organs. I was not even sure what the term “artificial organs” meant. Little did I anticipate that my future career would be intimately tied to the field of artificial organs.
The 1950s and 1960s ushered in the clinical application of artificial organ technology with renal dialysis, the heart lung machine, the defibrillator, the pacemaker, assisted circulation, and much more.1
My early years in medicine were spent in surgical training with Dr Adrian Kantrowitz. As a young physician I found these times very exciting. Those were the days of the pioneering implants of the mechanical auxiliary ventricle, the intra-aortic balloon pump (IAPB), and the first cardiac transplant done in the United States.2, 3
Dr Kantrowitz involved his clinical house staff in many of his research projects. I was a first-year surgical resident and my assignment was the IABP. One afternoon Dr Kantrowitz called me and said, “Steve, we’re ready for a clinical patient.” I explained the function of the IABP to my medical resident colleagues, and how it might salvage a patient with cardiogenic shock. At 4 AM my phone rang “Steve, we have a 48-year-old woman in cardiogenic shock, let’s try the pump you told us about.” As directed by Dr Kantrowitz, Drs. Tjonneland, Butner, and I inserted the first IABP. It functioned quite well, and the patient survived.2
Shortly after Christiaan Barnard performed his historic heart transplant in Cape Town, South Africa, Dr Kantrowitz performed the second transplant on a 3-week-old baby. The transplant was carried out in the middle of the night using my newborn son’s bassinette. Let me explain. A donor was found but all the stores were closed, and the only bassinettes available had been used in the animal lab. I rushed to the house staff quarters and commandeered my son’s bassinette (Figure 1).