Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Baby Fae, A Baboon Heart, And Bioethics

Baby Fae, the world's first infant to receive a baboon heart transplant. Doctors at Loma Linda said they were elated with the child's progress. Baby Fae died 21 days after the controversial transplant. Source: (
On October 14, 1984, a tiny, premature, and the very sick baby was born in California. Although her birth certificate listed her name as Stephanie Fae Beauclair, she became known to the world as Baby Fae.
Baby Fae was born with a fatal heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Babies born with this condition always pass away within a week or two, so Baby Fae's mother was advised to take her tiny baby home to die in comfort. One doctor, however---Leonard Lee Bailey of Loma Linda University Medical Center---offered the family hope. His controversial proposition caught the world's attention and thrust tiny Baby Fae into the middle of bioethical debate. Here is the story of Baby Fae, a baboon heart, and bioethics.
Dr. Leonard Bailey was a leader in pediatric heart care. Source: (

Dr. Bailey's Radical Idea

Dr. Leonard Bailey was a pioneer in pediatric open-heart surgery. He had even performed heart transplants on children, though when Baby Fae was born, no one had yet performed a successful infant heart transplant. The first human heart transplant occurred decades earlier in 1967, but infant heart transplants posed a number of challenges. The blood vessels surrounding infants' hearts are minute, for one thing. Additionally, the supply of infant donor hearts is typically low. That's pretty good news overall, but it meant there were no infant hearts available when Baby Fae was born. Dr. Bailey had to think outside the box ... and outside the human body. 
A baboon heart is nearly identical to a human heart. Source: (

What Are Xenografts?

Dr. Bailey had spent several years researching xenografts, the process of transplanting organs from one animal species to another. He had done as many as 150 interspecies organ transplants involving goats, sheep, and primates, and he believed the time was right to put humans into the mix. Loma Linda Medical Center granted him permission to replace Baby Fae's faulty human heart with one taken from a baboon.
Baby Fae's new heart began beating immediately. Source: (

The Surgery

Baby Fae was 12 days old on October 26, 1984, when she was wheeled into surgery. Dr. Bailey led the medical team who removed her defective heart and replaced it with the healthy heart of a baboon. At 11:35 A.M., the new heart began beating on its own inside Baby Fae's chest.
Thousands of people were pulling for Baby Fae to get well. Source: (

A Media Frenzy

News leaked about Baby Fae and her new baboon heart, and she became the subject of intense media attention. Thousands of people send cards, flowers, gifts, and money to Baby Fae along with prayers and well-wishes. Others marveled at the advances of modern medicine and the hope for the future that primate-human organ transplants may have offered.
Protesters marched outside Loma Linda Hospital. Source: (

The Bad Side

While the outpouring of support for tiny Baby Fae was heartwarming, there was an equal number of people who were alarmed by the procedure. Baby Fae's baboon heart opened a can of worms in the area of medical ethics, generating many questions that were not easily answered. Do parents have the right to subject their children to experimental medical procedures? Do these experimental surgeries give false hope to desperate parents? 
Baby Fae's transplant led to debates about animal rights. Source: (

Animal Rights

Animal rights activists were also outraged by Baby Fae's baboon heart, going so far as to march outside Loma Linda Medical Facility. An unwilling, captive baboon was slaughtered and its organs were taken to give to Baby Fae, they contended. If this could be done with a high degree of success, they further argued, it could mean that that primates' organs could be systematically harvested for human use. Just how far should humans push the boundaries of medical ethics? How much should a human's life be valued over an animal's?
Baby Fae forced some people to admit that humans are close to animals. Source: (

The Human Heart

For many people, the human heart and the emotional core that it symbolizes are what make humans human. To them, a human-animal heart transplant would rob the recipient of their humanity in a sense. The Baby Fae case forced people to look at the fine line between humans and animals, particularly primates, and face the reality that humans are more like animals than many people would like to admit.
Baby Fae's case riveted the nation. Source: (

Animal Organ Transplants Were Not New

Although Baby Fae was the youngest recipient of an organ transplanted from an animal, she was not the first. In the 1960s, experimental surgeries were performed on four patients, each of whom received kidneys from primates with minimal success. One patient lived nine months with the primate kidney. There had even been four attempts prior to Baby Fae to transplant a baboon heart into an adult human. Even though baboon hearts are nearly identical to human hearts, all of the patients died within a few days. Dr. Bailey had high hopes for success in Baby Fae's case, however, because a new immunosuppressant drug had recently been developed that greatly reduced the chance of organ rejection.
Dr. Bailey went on to complete the first human to human heart transplant in an infant. Source: (

The Fate of Baby Fae

At first, Baby Fae seemed to thrive with her new baboon heart. However, two weeks after the surgery, her health began to decline. She died on November 16, 1984, 21 days after receiving her baboon heart. It wasn't because the new wonder drug didn't work as promised; her death was not the result of her body rejecting the new heart. It was actually because she and the baboon didn't have the same blood type, which is apparently possible. You learn something new every day.
Baby Fae lived for only 21 days with her baboon heart. Source: (

Baby Fae in Pop Culture

Although Baby Fae's life was short, her legacy lives on, not only as an important case study in the issue of bioethics but as a pop culture moment. References to the baby with the baboon heart appear in TV shows like The Simpsons and Stranger Things and songs like "The Boy in the Bubble" by Paul Simon.

Irene Triplett: The Last Surviving Civil War Pension Recipient

Civil War reenactors dressed as Confederate cavalry and artillery take part in a reenactment of the Battle of Appomattox. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
On Veterans Day, we honor the brave men and women who served in the military as well as the surviving family members of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. It's our duty and privilege to take care of those survivors---in fact, the United States government is still sending monthly pension checks to the child of a Civil War veteran. That’s right: One child of a soldier who fought in the Civil War is still alive. Her name is Irene Triplett, and her father wore both a blue and a gray uniform during America's bloodiest war. Here is her remarkable story. 
The bloody Civil War claimed more than 600,000 lives. (

The Civil War

The American Civil War started on April 12, 1861 and lasted four horrific years. It was truly a terrible time in American history, with brothers literally fighting brothers. As many as 620,000 soldiers died in the war, while countless others were injured or imprisoned. 
The Civil War took place generations ago ... or did it? (

So Long Ago ... But Was it?

As schoolchildren, we all learned about the Civil War, but reading about it in our textbooks makes is seem so long ago. It is hard to fathom that a person whose father fought in the Civil War could still be alive today. Let's look at the math to see how it is possible.
Irene Triplett is the only remaining child of a Civil War veteran. (

Irene Triplett, The Last Civil War Pension Recipient

Irene Triplett, now 89 years old, is the daughter of Mose Triplett, who joined the Confederate Army in 1862. He was just 16 years old. The next 70 years were eventful ones, to be sure, but one of their highlights was his 1924 wedding to his second wife, Elida Hall. At 78, Triplett was half a century older than his bride. Six years later, she bore him a daughter, who was just eight years old when her father died a few days after returning from the 75th anniversary celebration at Gettysburg.
Civil War veteran, Mose Triplett (second from the right), pictured with his family prior to Irene's birth. (

Mose Triplett, Civil War Veteran

Mose Triplett was living in North Carolina in 1862 when he joined a group of men from his town who were enlisting in the Confederate Army. After his unit, the 53rd North Carolina Infantry, marched on Gettysburg, the majority of them fought and died on that hallowed ground. Triplett, however, had fallen ill with a fever prior to reaching Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, leaving him recuperating in an army hospital while his friends fell by the dozen.
Depiction of the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry. (

Mose Triplett, The Blue And The Gray

During his stay in the hospital, Mose Triplett seemed to have experienced a moral awakening. After he recovered from his illness, he deserted the Confederate Army and joined the Union. He never made it to the Battle of Gettysburg, instead fighting in Tennessee as a member of the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry, a Union regiment. It may seem bizarre, but it actually wasn't uncommon for soldiers to switch sides mid-war during the Civil War.
Mose Triplett married twice after the Civil War. (

Mose Triplett's Post-War Years

Mose Triplett was one of the fortunate ones. In the years following the war, he married his first wife, Mary, and raised a family with her in rural North Carolina. Mary Triplett died in 1920, leaving Mose Triplett a widower, but he didn't stay single for long.
The age difference between Triplett and his second wife was not as shocking in the rural 1920s as it may be today. In fact, Mose Triplett was a pillar of the community, so it seemed that Elida Hall had landed a good catch, if a slightly less mobile one. Mose and Elida had five children together, but only two---Irene and her younger brother, Everett---lived into adulthood. Everett has since passed away.
Undoubtedly, Irene Triplett's pension check looks a bit more up-to-date than this one. (

That Monthly Pension Check

Mose Triplett put in enough time with the Union Army to earn a pension, so the government sent him a check for $73.13 every month until his death in 1938 at the age of 92. After that, the pension check went to his widow, Elida, and upon her death, to his only surviving child, Irene. To this day, Irene receives a pension check from government for her father's service---and yes, the amount of each check is still $73.13. When the 89-year-old Irene dies, the government will officially stop issuing pension checks for the Civil War, which ended 154 years ago.
Fred Upham, who passed away less than a year ago, was also the child of a Civil War veteran. (

Until Recently, Irene Triplett Had Company

While it is remarkable that a child of a Civil War veteran is still alive, she wasn't even the only one until very recently. Not even a full year ago, in December 2018, 97-year-old Fred Upham died. Upham's father, William, was a private in the Union Army's 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. Though he was just 20 years old when the war broke out, he became a celebrated soldier who was injured in the First Battle of Bull Run. 
Abraham Lincoln visiting the troops during the Civil War. (

William Upham And Abraham Lincoln

William Upham twice had the opportunity to meet with President Abraham Lincoln, who was so impressed that he personally appointed Upham to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. As a child, Fred Upham heard plenty of Civil War stories from his father, who later served as the governor of Wisconsin, including tales of his time as a prisoner of war in the infamous Libby Prison.
After serving in the Civil War, William Upham went on to be the governor of Wisconsin. (

Upham's Second Marriage

Fred Upham was also the product of his father's second marriage late in life. At the age of 73, many years after his first wife's death, William Upham was taking a voyage up the Atlantic coast when he had to seek shelter from a storm in the harbor of Beaufort, North Carolina. It was there that he met Grace Mason, a much younger woman who would become his second wife and the mother of two of his children, including Fred Upham. 
Iris Lee Gay Jordan and Fred Upham shared their stories with National Geographic in 2014. Both have since passed away. (

Sharing Their Stories

In 2014, Fred Upham joined Iris Lee Gay Jordan, another child of a Civil War veteran, for a National Geographic event called A Sketch in Time: Bringing the Civil War to Life. Jordan, who passed away in 2017, and Upham were interviewed on-camera as they shared the stories they heard from their fathers about life during the Civil War, adding valuable firsthand accounts of America's bloodiest days to the history textbooks.

The REO Speed Wagon: Ransom E. Olds's Flatbed Truck

Before automobiles were an American way of life, automotive daydreamers attempted to create a market with models that they thought would inspire drivers to take to the roads. The REO Speed Wagon truck is a rare animal in the auto industry. Manufactured by the REO Motor Car Company, the massive truck was given the initials of the company's founder, Ransom Eli Olds, showing the faith that the truck's creators had in it. The Speed Wagon is still considered to be one of the most versatile and dependable automobiles to ever grace the market, and while its design was the catalyst for the pickup truck, many drivers are unaware of its existence outside of classic rock radio.

The Speed Wagon was introduced as a faster version of trucks at the time

Source: (Wikimedia)
Before the REO Speed Wagon hit the road, trucks from the early 20th century weren't working with the kind of horsepower that could overpower horses. The REO Motor Car Company knew that Americans needed something powerful in order to accomplish the kinds of physical labor they were undertaking as life turned complicated. The first REO Speed Wagon was introduced in 1915 with a four-cylinder engine and a three-speed transmission that moved much faster than the trucks of the day, which could only hit speeds of about 10--15 miles per hour. The Speed Wagons were massive and meant for hauling large quantities, be it feed, fruits and vegetables, or whatever else a person needed to move at the time. 
The Speed Wagons were a major innovation for people in every industry. Not only did they speed up transport time, they were able to hold more product, thus requiring fewer back-and-forth trips for those moving more than one item. It's strange to think about a truck being revolutionary, but with this vehicle, REO changed lives. 

 Speed Wagons were easy to modify

Source: (
Today, someone can just walk onto a car lot and buy a completely customized truck that perfectly fits their desires. For its time, however, the REO Speed Wagon was unusually customizable. The REO Motor Car Company initially created a basic design and chassis from which the truck could be endlessly modified. Whether someone needed to tow, deliver, or dump something, their Speed Wagons could be outfitted for any occasion. The Speed Wagons were so powerful and dependable that they were even used as fire trucks in many areas.
Speed Wagons could be refitted for whatever special purpose was needed, and the REO Motor Car Company knew that was part of their appeal. They advertised the ease with which the Wagon could be customized and started building Wagons with bigger engines, heavier flywheels, and larger water pumps. If you needed something done, the Speed Wagon could do it.

Durability was the Speed Wagon's middle name

Source: (
Speed Wagons were definitely built to last, but there was somehow a larger, heavier duty version of the truck that was released as a part of the "Gold Crown" series of engines. Released in 1937, the Speed Tanker was manufactured at a plant in Lansing, but it was used as far away as Australia. It's not clear if every Speed Tanker had the same capacity, but the version used by the Plume Oil Company in Australia had the capacity to hold 1,075 imperial gallons and drove on tires fit for a school bus. Aside from simply carrying oil, these vehicles were also built with compartments to hold deliverables and hoses in case of emergency. Like the Speed Wagon, the Speed Tanker was customizable, and according to an Australian newspaper at the time, they were streamlined to decrease air resistance before commercial use. 
It's odd to think that something as simple as a truck could revolutionize the way people go about their day-to-day business, but thanks to the Speed Wagon's durability, people were spending less time and money repairing carts or smaller automobiles and more time being productive. If they were using horses before owning a Speed Wagon, the vehicle removed stress from the animals, completely changing the way people did business.

The Speed Wagon was a catalyst for innovation

Source: (
The Speed Wagon wasn't just meant for hauling and towing. As an endlessly modifiable vehicle, it made a lot of firsts. Not only did it inspire other automobile companies to construct smaller and more durable pickup trucks, but the first electric starters and shaft-driven axles on a vehicle were also included on this enormous truck. The REO Motor Car Company continued innovating upon their own design as they found ways to make the vehicle heavier while giving it a larger capacity as well as making it more lightweight. By 1925, the company had produced more than 125,000 Speed Wagons.

They were unwieldy beasts to drive

Source: (
As great as these vehicles were for customization and durability, the more modifications that were added to the Speed Wagons and Tankers, the harder they were to drive and maneuver. Researcher Ace Zenek explained:
Looking at the design of the cab and body, the REO Streamliner must have been very interesting to drive. Although there are mirrors at the side of the cabin, other than to the front, visibility must have been horrible. The placement of the external mirrors also indicates that the driver sat pretty far back by the small side windows. Note also the single small windshield wiper in front of the driver. 
It makes sense that the Speed Wagon would be a beast to drive. Not only were these vehicles massive, but they also weren't outfitted with anything that makes driving the breeze that it is today.

The Speed Wagon played a major part in World War II

Source: (
In the 1930s, commercial production for the Speed Wagons trickled to a stop as REO shifted their focus away from the durable behemoths. However, as America entered World War II, it required a heavy-duty, lightweight, and dependable vehicle that could accomplish a myriad task. Sound familiar?
REO produced the M35 series cargo truck, a two-and-a-half-ton 6-by-6 vehicle that could be retrofitted for a variety of different uses. Like the Speed Wagon, the M35 had a ton of different uses depending on terrain and location. Once the war ended, Speed Wagon production halted, and REO closed the books on their game-changing vehicle.
The Speed Wagon had all but faded from memory until 1968 when Neal Doughty walked into his history of transportation class on the day his band started thinking about what they would call themselves. He saw the words "REO Speedwagon" on the blackboard, and from that day on, its spirit was revived every time listeners were reminded to keep on loving someone.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

The Great Molasses Flood: Sabotage or Industrial Accident?

BOSTON - JANUARY 1: A molasses tank collapsed and caused widespread damage in Boston's North End in January 1919. (Photo by The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
An unfathomable tragedy filled the streets of Boston with a tsunami of molasses…yes, molasses!...on a balmy January day in 1919. The 2.3 million tons of the sticky, brown molasses moved surprisingly fast, destroying several buildings, ripping an elevated train from its tracks, and killing 21 people and multiple horses. What became known as the Great Molasses Flood occurred when a giant holding tank at the Purity Distilling Company, which had just been filled with molasses, burst apart. The owners of the Purity Distilling Company claimed that a bomb placed by “evilly disposed persons” was responsible for the flood. Could it have been an act of foreign terrorism or a structural failure?

A Loud Noise and a Wall of Brown

Temperatures were especially warm for January…over 40-degrees. People were out and about, enjoying day. Just after lunch time, at about 12:40 in the afternoon, a sudden, loud, metallic sound rang out and the ground shook. The people of Boston had little time to ponder the strange noise; a 15-foot tall wall of brown, bubbling molasses barreled down on the city at 35-miles per hour. People and horses were swallowed up by the brown wall. The force of the molasses crumpled several buildings and pushed others off their foundations. Electrical poles snapped, as did the steel supports of the nearby elevated train platform. The train was upended from the tracks.
In the molasses tsunami’s wake was a half a mile of destruction…splintered houses, dead bodies, injured horses, and buried carriages. The Boston Post printed an eye-witness report of the time saying that, amid the waist-deep sludge, he could see living creatures struggling to free themselves from the thick, brown muck, but that it was impossible to tell if they were humans, dogs, or horses.

Soldiers Rushed to Help the Police and Firefighters

The USS Nantucket, a training ship, was docked nearby and the soldiers on board witnessed the disaster. They rushed to the scene to help, pulling victims from the goo. They were soon joined by Boston police and fire departments. Their rescue efforts were hampered by the nature of the flood. The molasses, which had been hot when it was poured in the holding tank, was thin and more fluid as it flooded the streets, but now, the cooler temperatures were causing the molasses to thicken to a near-solid state. Victims encased in the cooling molasses had little time before they suffocated.
Firefighters turned their rescue efforts into saving their fellow firefighters. The Engine 31 firehouse was close to the molasses tank and was knocked off its foundation by the flood. The second floor of the station collapsed, trapping a group of firefighters who were eating their lunch at the time. Rescuers spent hours cutting through the ruined building to reach the trapped men. They were able to rescue all but one of their brothers, who drowned in the sticky molasses.
In all, 21 people died in the molasses flood and more than 150 people were injured. In the days after the flood, periodic shots rang out as clean-up crews euthanized trapped horses. Some victims were not chiseled out of the molasses for days. Some were unrecognizable.

Finger-Pointing Started as Soon as Clean-Up Did

Clean up crews immediately went to work shoveling the thick, brown sludge from the streets and rebuilding the destroyed structures. They used salt water from Boston Harbor to scrub the affected areas and the newspapers reported that the Harbor was stained brown for six months after the accident. The molasses seeped into the smallest cracks. One witness reported, “Everything a Bostonian touched was sticky.” Residents claimed they could smell the sweet molasses every summer for years.
The United States Industrial Alcohol (USIA), the overseer of the Purity Distilling Company, was quick to deflect the blame for the flood. Officials from the USIA noted that about 80% of the molasses they produced was used for making munitions and gunpowder. They claimed that foreign, likely Italian, anarchists had planted a bomb in the holding tank as an act of sabotage. In fact, they reported that they had received a menacing phone call just one year earlier from an individual who threatened to blow up the tank.
As the lawsuits stacked up against USIA and Purity Distillery, experts examined the holding tank. They found that the tank, which had been filled to capacity just before the flood, suffered from a severe catastrophic structural failure, causing it to burst apart at the seams. Curiously, the tank was not normally filled to capacity, leaving many to speculate that the company was ramping up production with plans to sell the excess molasses to rum-makers as a precursor to Prohibition, which was scheduled to go into effect the following year.

Flood victims filed 119 lawsuits against the company. Legal proceedings dragged on for five years, but in the end, the courts ruled that USIA had to pay flood victims and their families $628,000 in damages, about $8 million by today’s standards.

28 Photos Show Us How 'Strange' Medical Practice of the Past Used To Be

Back in the 1800s, the human body was still largely a mystery. Modern medicine was just starting to take shape, but compared to what we know today, doctors at the time were remarkably uninformed, which led to some very strange medical practices to say the least.
1) Masks worn by doctors during the Plague. The beaks held scented substances.
2) Children in an iron lung before the advent of the polio vaccination. Many children lived for months in these machines, though not all survived. c. 1937
3) Corset damage to a ribcage. 19th century London
4) Dr. Kilmer’s Female Remedy
5) Tanning babies at the Chicago Orphan Asylum, 1925, to offset winter rickets
6) Woman with an artificial leg, c. 1890-1900
7) Wooden prosthetic hand, c. 1800
8) Early plastic surgery. Selection of some items used to disguise facial injuries.
9) Blood transfusion bottle, England 1978
10) Dr. Clark’s Spinal Apparatus advertisement, 1878
11) Neurological exam with electrical device, c. 1884
12) Antique prosthetic leg
13) US Civil War surgeon’s kit
14) “Walter Reed physiotherapy store” 1920’s
15) Boy in rolling “invalid cart” c. 1915
16) Obstetric phantom, Italy 1700-1800. Tool to teach medical students and midwives about childbirth
17) Radioactive yummies
18) Lewis Sayre’s scoliosis treatment
19) Claude Becks early defibulator
20) Antique birthing chair used until the 1800s
21) Knives for surgery, China, 1801-1920.
22) Anatomical Model. Doctors were not allowed to touch the women’s bodies, so they would point to describe pain locations
23) Radiology nurse technician, WWI France 1918
24) 1855-1860. One of first surgical procedures using ether as an anesthetic
25) Rush Medical College lecture auditorium, 1900, Chicago
26) Treatments for insanity
27) Leonid Rogozov, the only surgeon on an Antarctic expedition, performing surgery on himself after suffering from appendicitis. April 30, 1961