Katie McCabe's account of a black carpenter turned lab assistant whose work with white surgeon Alfred Blalock revolutionized the field of heart surgery and defied segregation-era laws.
This National Magazine Award-winning article was published in Washingtonian's August 1989 issue, where it caught the eye of Dr. Irving Sorkin. A local dentist with big Hollywood dreams, Sorkin pushed for the story to be taken to the screen for many years, finally succeeding in 2004 with the HBO film Something the Lord Made.
The film won a number of awards that year, including an Emmy for Outstanding Made For Television Movie. Credited as co-producer of the film, Sorkin was recognized with a Peabody Award. Irving Sorkin recently passed away at the age of 88. To read the article that inspired him and others, click here.
To us it is not just a story, it is a true story that has changed our lives forever. It is the story of two men - an ambitious white surgeon and a gifted black carpenter turned lab technician - who defied the racial strictures of the Jim Crow South and together pioneered the field of heart surgery. It is a moving story of men who defy the rules and start a medical revolution. Their patients are known as the "blue babies" - infants suffering from a congenital heart defect that turns them blue as they slowly suffocate. Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman) and Vivien Thomas (Mos Def) make a brilliant team. But even as they race against time to save one particular baby, the two occupy different places in society. Blalock is the white, wealthy head of surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Thomas is black and poor, a skilled carpenter whose dream of going to college and becoming a doctor was ruined by the Great Depression, although he was naturally gifted with the intuition and dexterity of a great surgeon. Even as they save lives and invent a whole new field of medicine, social pressures threaten to tear them apart. Ultimately, however, Thomas finds his dreams coming true in unexpected ways.
Watching this film was overwhelming and surreal for me and my husband. I cried lightly most of the way through it, then sobbed at the end, we both did. You see, in the film, one young med student by the name of Dr. Denton Cooley was featured . He just happens to be the father-in-law of the amazing heart surgeon who saved our daughter's life, Dr. Charles Fraser, Surgeon-in-Chief at Texas Children's Hospital. Praise the Lord. In the film, when Vivien Thomas builds the first successful bypass method using a dog's heart, the surgeon Dr. Blalock feels around and asks him, "Vivien, are you sure you did this?" Vivien answered in the affirmative, and then after a pause Dr. Blalock said, "Well, this looks like something the Lord made."
This is a movie worth watching for anyone, but especially any family affected by Congenital Heart Disease and can be purchased on Amazon.com or rented from Netflix.
Thankful and blessed,