3. Dairy pumps and beer hoses used for open heart surgerySometimes technological pioneers need to go to extreme lengths to further innovation. Dr. C. Walton Lillehei – considered the “Father of Open Heart Surgery” for his work at the University of Minnesota – at one time performed a life-saving heart surgery on a 14-month old baby using beer hoses and a dairy pump.
Lillehei thought that heart-lung machines of the 1950s were complicated. He thought using a parent as life support for a child undergoing surgery would work if he could connect the circulatory systems with a pump and tubing. In his theory, he could stop the blood flow to a child’s heart during operation and open the heart without causing brain damage. His original cross-circulation concept consisted of a dairy pump and beer hoses.
Gregory Glidden, a 14-month old baby, was brought in to have open heart surgery. His father, Lyman Glidden, was going to supply him with blood. Both patients underwent surgery. Tubes inserted in the vessels of Lyman were connected to beer hoses. The beer hoses were connected to a Sigmamotor T-6S milk pump. Lillehei started his surgery on Gregory’s heart to fix a murmur. The surgery was completed in 19 minutes after he sewed both patients up. Sadly, Gregory died of complications 11 days later.