(CL’55) Hope – Remembering the Early Years of Open Heart Surgery

For the 100th Anniversary of the Alumnae Association in 2003, graduates were asked to reflect on their most memorable experiences at HSC.  Hope Hurlbut, Class ’55 wrote the following:

“I remember when I was in third year of nurses training I was asked to go and ‘special’ one of Dr. Mustard’s heart patients.  Previously, when I was in the O.R., I had helped prepare the monkey’s lungs for one of his open heart surgeries, but every time he operated the child died.

On the day in question the child had already spent 24 hours in the recovery room and was stable enough to be transferred to a ward, the first child to survive open heart surgery for such a long time.  Dr. Mustard would not operate unless he felt the child had two weeks or less to live.  This particular child was two years old but was so poorly oxygenated that she had never been awake for more than 4 hours in every 24.

As I worked with her, doctors from all over the city came in to visit and see this “miracle child”.  Once when Miss Masten came in she said, “Miss Hurlbut, you must be very proud.  Today you are making history.”

I really did feel proud of Dr. Mustard.  He had worked so hard and kept modifying his techniques.  Up to that point he had experienced 100% failure in his open heart surgeries.  He was a real pioneer and just kept at it as he was sure the next one would live.  He never seemed to lose heart and would be in and out of the recovery room after every “successful” surgery to check the child’s vital signs, knowing that even though the surgery was technically successful, the child’s body might not stand up to the trauma of surgery.  It was an exciting time to be at Sick Kids.”