Vivien Thomas
by Hannah Owens
Early life
  • oBorn on August 29, 1910
  • o Born in Iberia, Louisiana.
  • o Died November 26, 1985
  • o Full name is Vivien Theodore Thomas
  • oGrandson of a slaveHMO young Vivien Thomas.jpg
  • oFourth out of five children
  • o Moved to Nashville, Tennessee
  • o Attended Pearl High School
  • o Hoped to attend college and become a doctor
  • o Great Depression disrupted his plans
  • o Father taught him carpentry starting at age 13
  • oCould work independently at age 16 age
  • o Worked at Fisk University in the summer doing carpentry
  • oNever went to college

Professional Life
  • o Secured job as surgical research technician for Alfred Balock
  • oOn his first day Thomas assisted Balock with a surgical experiment on a dog
  • oWithin a few weeks he could start surgery on his own
  • oHe was classified and paid as a janitor, though he did the work of a postdoctoral researcher in the lab
  • oThomas and Balock did research into the causes of hemorrhagic and traumatic shock that was groundbreaking
  • oThis work later evolved into research on Crush Syndrome
  • o Saved thousands of soldiers during World War II
  • o In hundreds of experiments Balock theorized that shock wasn’t caused by toxins in the blood
  • oHe determined shock was caused by fluid loss, and could be treated by fluid replacement
  • oWhen Balock was offered the position of Chief of Surgery, he requested Thomas accompany him
  • oOn November 29, 1944, they first used their procedure to cur Blue Baby Syndrome on a human.
  • oIt was an eighteen month old infantHMO Vivien Thomas.jpg
  • oWasn’t completely successful, but extended her life for a few more months
  • oSecond was for a 11 year old girl
  • o Completely successful

Retirement and Death
  • oafter retirement Thomas wrote an autobiography, Partners of the Heart
  • o died of pancreatic cancer
  • o died at age 75
  • o book was published just days after
  • owriter wrote article about him in paper
  • o inspired film maker to make a documentary
  • oinspired another film maker to make a movie

Tomas, Vivien T. Partners of the heart. Philadelphia: University Press, 1985. Print.

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Heart Diagram