Throwback Thursday: March 17, 1960, 'Surgery Restores Life to Mother'

By Kristy Bleizeffer Mar 22, 2018

This newspaper clipping is part of the Wyoming Medical Center collection at the Western History Center at Casper College.

Before cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was developed in 1960, and before physicians learned the technique, surgeons had few options when a patient's heart stopped beating during an operation. 

One of the options they did have, open cardiac massage, sounds positively harrowing.

On March 17, 1960, the Casper Tribune-Herald reported the story of Mrs. Lewis George who suffered cardiac arrest during a minor surgery at Memorial Hospital of Natrona County. 

This was one day after giving birth her fourth child, a little girl she named Betty Lou. The newspaper reported that Mrs. George was apparently allergic to the ether administered before the surgery. 

"The surgeon immediately opened the chest cavity under her left breast, parted the ribs and massaged the heart. It started beating again. Meanwhile one lung deflated, and the patient ceased breathing. A respirator was used at once to restore breathing," the article reads.

In 1963, the American Heart Association started its CPR Committee and formally endorsed closed-chest CPR, the classic chest compressions you are used to seeing in emergencies or on television. As more and more physicians learned the technique, followed by medical professionals and, eventually, the general public, open heart massage became even more rare. Today, it is considered a "heroic procedure" administered on patients in the emergency room when there are no other options.

But CPR wasn't available to Mrs. George in March, 1960. Happily, according to the article, she recovered fully. She and Betty Lou left the hospital a week later. You can read the full article below.

Throwback Thursday looks back on Wyoming Medical Center’s long, rich history in Natrona County. Special thanks to the Casper College Western History Center, which archives our vast collection of newspaper articles, photographs and other memorabilia; and to "Wyoming Medical Center: A Centennial History," by Rebecca A. Hunt, Ph.D.