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Breakthrough!: How Three People Saved Blue…

Breakthrough!: How Three People Saved "Blue Babies" and Changed Medicine…

by Jim Murphy

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I think that this book deserves five stars, because it was very informative about this situation, and it had good explanations about this heart condition. The book had great pictures of the doctors and patients. It's a very touching book, because these poor babies with this heart condition, were going to be operated on, with a big chance of them not making it. The first time this disease was introduced was on a cold day in November 1944. An eighteen-month-old baby girl named Eileen Saxon, was brought into the Johns Hopkins Hospital. She had a very rare heart condition called blue baby syndrome, most doctors thought she would die, first of because they didn't know what was wrong with her, and second of because she was so tiny they didn't think they could operate her. But that didn't stop Dr.Blalock and his coworkers from trying.

On November 29, 1944, Eileen Saxon was brought into the Johns Hopkins Hospital. She could barely breath because of a heart condition called blue baby syndrome. Her lips and fingertips would turn a dark blue, and most doctors thought that she wouldn't make it. Dr.Blalock was the chief surgeon, and next to him was Dr.Taussig who was a world-famous pediatric physician. Still that didn't help this situation no one knew what to do except Vivien Thomas, who wasn't even supposed to be in the operating room. He was the only one who had ever successfully carried out the procedure on a research animal. Thanks to him, tens of thousands of children have been cured. That night he was the hero. ( )
  IsabelG.B1 | Mar 20, 2017 |
In 1944, the first experimental surgery to save a dying blue baby in order to deliver more oxygen in the blood was performed. Dr. Blalock, head surgeon at Johns Hopkins, performed the procedure. The book details the amount of research done to innovate to get to the operating room. From theory to developing instruments to designing technique, much of this work was done by a lab assistant, Vivien Thomas.
The book explored the partnership between Thomas and Blalock. Blalock as a white southern doctor and Thomas, an African-American man unable to go to medical school due to the stock market crash, made an unlikely pair and the realities of racial dynamics during their lifetimes certainly played a role in their dynamic and the amount of recognition Thomas was given in his contributions, at least earlier in his career. ( )
  ewyatt | Dec 29, 2016 |
This was well-written and an important book, but I have serious doubts as to whether I will get any kids to read it.

The story is prefaced with the first, tense operation on a tiny "blue baby" a girl whose malformed heart was threatening her life. Until that moment, heart surgery was an unknown and impossible procedure. Even more startling, the quiet man supervising the operation from behind the scenes was African-American.

Dr. Alfred Blalock, a researcher and chief surgeon at Johns Hopkins, was encouraged to pursue the research into saving the lives of blue babies by pediatrician Dr. Helen Taussig. But it was Vivien Thomas, a man whom most assumed was just a janitor, who was the true genius behind the procedure.

Murphy walks readers through the struggles and personality conflicts leading to the pivotal operation, to the challenges faced by the researchers both in their personal lives and in medical science, and follows the results of fame and fortune for some and near-obscurity for others.

End materials include extensive source notes with explanations, bibliography, credits and index. Despite the positive aspects of the book, it just doesn't grab the reader. Is it interesting and important to read about the contributions of often overlooked people like Thomas and female doctors like Taussig? Absolutely. Does Murphy do a good job of explaining the situation, context, and following the story? Yes. But despite all that the story just....drags. It meanders into descriptions of surgical instruments and anatomy, digresses into the vivisection controversy, and only at the end does it follow up on the results of the first child to undergo the operation. To sell narrative nonfiction to middle grade readers there needs to be a strong narrative and this didn't feel that strong to me.

Verdict: Although it's a title I'd love to purchase to diversify the collection and because it's an interesting story, it doesn't have the same grab as Jarrow's medical mysteries and some of Murphy's previous titles. If you have a larger collection or more dedicated readers, this would be a good choice.

ISBN: 9780547821832; Published 2015 by Clarion; Borrowed from another library in my consortium
  JeanLittleLibrary | Mar 26, 2016 |
BREAKTHROUGH by Jim Murphy tells the fascinating true story of the three researchers responsible for developing a procedure to treat “blue baby syndrome”.

Aimed at the middle grades and young adults, the engaging nonfiction narrative explores how three people came together to create a groundbreaking medical procedure to repair a severe type of heart defeat. What makes the book particularly compelling is that each contributor faced professional challenges. As an African-American, Thomas faced prejudice and as a woman, Blalock dealt with gender-bias.

Murphy is known for his effective use of primary source documents. While the book contains photos of the people involved and some images of medical procedures, it lacks the wealth of photographs, diagrams, and other illustrations that bring Murphy’s other works to life.

The book contains source notes, a bibliography, and an index that are useful in research. However, the narrative style will make it difficult for students to use for research projects unless they read the entire work.

Librarians will find that this book will appeal to students who enjoy narrative nonfiction related to science and medicine. However unlike some of his other books, it’s not likely to appeal to reluctant readers.

This title would be an excellent addition to the library’s growing collection of books that connect STEM with issues of diversity.

Published by Clarion on December 8, 2015. ARC from the publisher. ( )
  eduscapes | Jan 20, 2016 |
Breakthrough! How Three People Saved Blue Babies and Changed Medicine forever by Jim Murphy proves that great step forwards in medicine involve fascinating people who had to push for those advances. Three people who among those in the operating room when little Eileen Saxon received the first operation for blue babies. Even though she did not live long after the operation, it was proof that operating on tiny hearts could be done and the patient could survive.

Dr. Alfred Blaylock, the chief surgeon at the operation was known for being a playboy and it was feared that he did not take medicine seriously. Vivien Thomas, a black man, Blaylock’s lab assistant had never been to college but his determination and quick learning ability convinced Dr. Blaylock to have him as his lab assistant. Vivien was a very hard worker and had chosen this job over better paying jobs. He had wanted to be a doctor but the Great Depression took away all his hopes for that. Dr. Helen Taussig, took courses at Boston University and Harvard but they would not allow her a degree because she was a woman. Her determination and care for the children led her to be a real pioneer for blue babies.

I picked this book out to read because my brother, Billy, was a blue baby so I wanted to learn more about the history of advances in treatment. Now I know much more about why he wasn’t able to get enough oxygen and about the people who pushed for solutions against this problem. The author, Jim Murphy told their story with the facts that we need to know and made it all very interesting. There are lots of wonderful black and white illustrations that carry you back to the times and very informative footnotes in the back of this book.

I highly recommend this book and hope to read more written by Jim Murphy.

I received this Advanced Reading Copy by making a selection from Amazon Vine books but that in no way influenced my thoughts or feelings in this review. I also posted this review only on sites meant for reading not for selling. ( )
  Carolee888 | Nov 4, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547821832, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 13 Jul 2015 23:21:22 -0400)

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