Heritage: The Story of St. Mary's Hospital, 1880-1980
By Leo G. Bryne and Sister Alberta Cammack, C.S.J
Chapter II Modern Medical Complex
An important step in cardiac care was taken by St. Mary's when new diagnostic equipment was donated by the Tucson Heart Association, bringing facilities to the city which formerly were available in the Southwest only in El Paso or Los Angeles. A Sanborn Viso Recorder, numerous catheters and a Cardioscribe helped in the diagnosis of congenital and acquired heart disease, establishing the exact nature of the trouble and the care that would be called for in such cardiac conditions.
Diagnostic and Cardiovascular surgical services continued to develop at St. Mary's. In May of 1959, an operation, the first of its kind in Arizona, was performed as a five-month-old child born with a double aortic arch was operated on to correct a difficulty in breathing and swallowing.
In December of that year, the hospital, with the help of funds raised by the Auxiliary, acquired a Kay-Anderson heart-lung machine to be used for open-heart surgery. Previous to this, two of St. Mary's doctors had gone to St. Vincent's Hospital in Los Angeles for training in this procedure. The first open-heart surgery patient was Alegria Seawaters, an eight-year old girl who had been born with a hole in her heart. During the operation six stitches were taken to close the hole while the heart-lung machine took over the functions of the girl's heart and lungs.
The first artificial kidney in Tucson was acquired by St. Mary's in that same year of 1959. A team of three doctors, two nurses, and a laboratory technician was required to put the dialysis machine in operation. While the patient was on the machine, two doctors, a nurse and a technician had to be in attendance during a process that lasted from six to eight hours.
In 1960, additional equipment for a complete Cardiovascular Center became available through funds provided by the Eliot Spalding Foundation. By the end of the year, a woman winter visitor who had suffered a complete heart block was the first to receive a pacemaker at St. Mary's. Had she suffered such an attack a year before in all likelihood she would have died.
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