Pioneering Research in Surgical Shock and Cardiovascular Surgery: Vivien Thomas and His Work with Alfred Blalock : An Autobiography

By Vivien T. Thomas | Go to book overview

5

For the eleven years I was at Vanderbilt, I had a minimum of contact with Dr. Brooks. The first time I saw him and recognized him for who he was, was around 1933. He came into the laboratory one day while I was operating alone, with Sam giving the anesthesia. He came over and stood a little behind me and looked on for a minute or two. I continued with whatever procedure I was doing. Since he did not say anything, I more or less ignored him. He walked away, clearing his throat. After he left, I asked Sam who he was, and Sam told me it was Dr. Brooks. Since Southerners usually exchange greetings in the morning, I asked if he had seen him earlier in the morning. When Sam said he had not, I asked why they didn't speak. Sam replied, "He doesn't speak to me, so I don't speak to him." He ended any further discussion by saying, "He's just that way, so I don't bother him."

My next contact with Dr. Brooks was about a year later. The purchasing of the laboratory supplies was done through his office. Sam would call Miss Alford, Dr. Brooks's secretary, or carry her a list of the items needed. Our supply of X-ray film and printing paper was getting low, so I called Miss Alford and told her what we needed, including some chemicals for developer and fixer solutions. About a week later, Dr. Brooks came into the laboratory and, since I was not in view, asked where I was. Even though I didn't know him, I suspected from the tone of his voice that something was wrong. He came over to where I was working and asked who had told me to order X-ray and photographic supplies. I told him that no one had, but that our supply was so low we needed more. He asked if I didn't know I had to get approval from him or Dr. Blalock. I said I hadn't known that. Then he wanted to know what I was going to do with the supplies and where they were. I took him into the dark room, showed him where they were stored and the box for the printing of pictures. His voice changed, but he left with the parting shot, "I'm not sure I'm not through with you right now." I began thinking about my next job. The same afternoon, Dr. Blalock came into the laboratory and said, "Don't be having run-ins with Dr. Brooks"; he made no further comment.

About a week later, Miss Alford called and said Dr. Brooks wanted to see me in his office. Now I just knew that that was it, that he had decided he was through with me. On the way to his office, I began wondering what condition my carpenter tools were in. I hadn't used any of them

-41-

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