Thursday, May 24, 2007

May 24: Helen Brooke Taussig (1898-1986)

On this date in 1898, pediatric cardiologist Helen Brooke Taussig was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This website has some interesting photos of her work with "blue babies"--children born with a heart condition known as tetralogy of Fallot, which affects oxygenation. The second photo shows a small child in a very large wicker wheelchair (how on earth is she staying in that chair? no wonder she looks so annoyed, eh?). There's also a graphic from a 1947 charity appeal, "Saving our Doomed 'Blue' Babies." Helen Taussig's research was also crucial in the decision to keep thalidomide from being approved for use in the US.

But she had personal experience with disability too. She was a frail child who survived tuberculosis, and struggled with dyslexia long before it was an identified learning disability. By the time she completed requirements for her M.D. in 1927, she had lost her hearing, too--legacy of a childhood bout with whooping cough. Deafness was an unusual challenge for a cardiologist, in an era when the stethescope was the main tool of the trade--so she became an expert at alternative means of monitoring heart structure and function.

4 comments:

Peter said...

Um my mother said I was a blue baby and given silver nitrate at birth is what it says on my New York birth certificate. I wonder if I really had anything or my mother was a product of these times. I wonder if this illness is real or is it like wonderers syndrome? See Ian Hacking's analysis of wonderers syndrome.

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