In 1967, I was an intern with the cardiac service of CW Lillehei at the University of Minnesota. Dr Lillehei had just performed a surgery on a 16 year old girl with a Tetralogy of Fallot (a congenital heart defect). Being 16, Maria was unusually old for this type of surgery as most children with this condition who are left untreated typically would die from the disease before reaching adolescence.
Maria had severe heart failure when she came to us for treatment. It was a very risky surgery for her, which at 16 and extremely ill, had very low chances of survival. I was the intern on the case and followed her into the coronary care unit after the surgery. She suffered 260 cardiac arrests over the first week (I believe a record). For this reason, I stayed with her day and night, addressing each and every cardiac arrest episode as quickly and as efficiently as possible. She was fearful if I ever left her room, even for a bathroom break. I ate my meals beside her and slept in the adjacent bed next to her if it was not occupied, or on the floor, or in a chair.
After the multiple cardiac arrests, her chest wound incision (the mediastinum incision from the base of her neck to the bottom of her breast bone), could not tolerate the repeated cardiac compression episodes and electric shocks for defibrillation, and the chest wound eventually opened up, exposing her heart. When she would sit up, her heart came out of her chest. Eventually, the heart became infected and I was assigned the job of washing out the chest cavity, putting my gloved hand into the chest and breaking up pockets of pus that formed around the heart and great vessels. The process of clearing up the infection went on for many months and eventually another intern took over that responsibility.