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Breakthrough!
Cover of Breakthrough!
Breakthrough!
How Three People Saved "Blue Babies" and Changed Medicine Forever
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"Murphy's dramatic nonfiction narrative recounting of one of the first open heart surgeries ever performed is not to be missed." —School Library Journal (starred review)In 1944, a groundbreaking...
"Murphy's dramatic nonfiction narrative recounting of one of the first open heart surgeries ever performed is not to be missed." —School Library Journal (starred review)In 1944, a groundbreaking...
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  • "Murphy's dramatic nonfiction narrative recounting of one of the first open heart surgeries ever performed is not to be missed." —School Library Journal (starred review)

    In 1944, a groundbreaking operation repaired the congenital heart defect known as blue baby syndrome. The operation's success brought the surgeon Alfred Blalock international fame and paved the way for open-heart surgery. But the technique had been painstakingly developed by Vivien Thomas, Blalock's African American lab assistant, who stood behind Blalock in the operating room to give him step-by-step instructions.

    The stories of this medical and social breakthrough and the lives of Thomas, Blalock, and their colleague Dr. Helen Taussig are intertwined in this compelling nonfiction narrative.

    Winner, Notable Books for a Global Society * Horn Book Fanfare List * A Booklist Best Young Adult Book

About the Author-

  • Jim Murphy's nonfiction books have received numerous awards, among them two Newbery Honors, the Sibert Medal, three Orbis Pictus awards, the Margaret A. Edwards award, the James Madison Book Award, and a National Book Award nomination. Born and raised in New Jersey, Jim lives in Maplewood, NJ, with his family.
    jimmurphybooks.com.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 12, 2015
    Murphy (Invincible Microbe) vividly details the contributions of three major participants in the first heart operation on a child with congenital heart defects resulting in oxygen-poor blood, known as a "blue baby." With exemplary clarity, Murphy recounts the many formidable challenges of the 1944 operation: the heart was considered sacrosanct, the surgical procedure had never been performed on a human, the patient was a desperately tiny 18-month-old, the medical equipment was handmade, and postoperative care was primitive. Murphy's nuanced portrayal of each member of the unusual triumvirate—Dr. Alfred Blalock, a Southerner who achieved worldwide fame as a cardiac surgeon; the child's female pediatrician, Dr. Helen Taussig; and Vivien Thomas, an African-American research assistant whom "most people at the hospital thought... was a janitor"—ensures readers understand the historical and cultural context, including the male-dominated medical world and prevailing racial attitudes. Murphy masterfully interweaves discussions of discrimination, the controversy over animal testing, and the background of each protagonist into the main narrative, building tension as he leads up to the surgery itself. Ages 10–12. Agent: Nancy Gallt, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency.

  • Kirkus

    September 15, 2015
    In 1944, Dr. Alfred Blalock joined pediatrician Dr. Helen Taussig and research assistant Vivien Thomas to develop the first surgical procedure to treat a severe heart defect called tetralogy of Fallot, or more commonly "blue baby syndrome." The success of this groundbreaking procedure ushered in the concept that hearts could be surgically repaired. Thomas, a brilliant, highly skillful African-American who was unable to afford college, did much of the work to design and perfect the procedure. Murphy provides background on all three of those involved but focuses on Thomas and Blalock, their unusual professional relationship in the context of an era of extreme racial prejudice, and the failure to credit Thomas with his achievements. Controversial animal experimentation was a major component of the research, a topic covered in some detail. Although the cardiac defect is simply explained, there are no diagrams to enhance understanding of it. The first attempt at the procedure resulted in immediate improvement in the dying baby's condition. Oddly, however, the final result for her is revealed only in the detailed endnotes. While the surgical procedure soon became available as a treatment option, no information is provided on how surgically treated patients fared, long term-even though a full page focuses on the outcome for a canine subject. Despite lacunae, a gripping look at a major medical breakthrough. (source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-16)

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from November 1, 2015

    Gr 4-7-Murphy tells the fascinating story of a partnership between three extraordinary individuals, which led to a groundbreaking heart surgery. Prior to 1944, 25 percent of babies born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a serious heart defect, died before they reached their first year; only 30 percent lived to the age of 10. Dr. Helen B. Taussig, a pediatric cardiologist who worked at Johns Hopkins, approached renowned Hopkins surgeon Dr. Alfred Blalock about the possibility of performing cardiac surgery on these infants, known as "blue babies." Dr. Blalock enlisted the help of his assistant, Vivien Thomas, whose skill and expertise were instrumental in not only developing the procedure but in designing the special surgical instruments required. Thomas, who knew more about the procedure than anyone in the world, was a black man without a college degree, whom many thought was the janitor. Thomas was so indispensable to Blalock that during the surgery he stood on a stool behind Blalock offering advice and guidance. The account of these three individuals is expertly woven together, but it is Thomas's compelling story that receives the sharper focus. The accessible text is peppered with historical photographs, and Murphy combines just the right amount of medical information necessary to understand the science, as well as the human interest aspect. Also tactfully introduced is the reality that many medical advances have been made due to experimentation on animals-in this case it was dogs. VERDICT Murphy's dramatic nonfiction narrative recounting of one of the first open heart surgeries ever performed is not to be missed-even reluctant readers will be hooked.-Ragan O'Malley, Saint Ann's School, Brooklyn, NY

    Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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How Three People Saved "Blue Babies" and Changed Medicine Forever
Jim Murphy
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