Something the Lord Made (2004) Script

Thank you.


All right, everybody, that's it for the day.

Be sure you get that drop cloth up before you leave, all right?


-That's some nice work, young blood. -Thank you, Mr. Roulette.

Yeah, your daddy taught you right.

You know, when all the construction starts coming back... you got skills to make something of yourself.

Thank you, sir.

That's fine. l can wait until payday. l'm sorry, all the others have families to feed... but you do good work.

-l like what you do, okay? -Okay.

You got a funny way of telling me that.

Morning.

-Didn't l tell you l could pull some strings? -Yes, you did, Charlie.

-Thank you, you're a good man. -Yeah.

But tell me why.... Morning.

Why would a doctor want to hire a carpenter?

Because it ain't nothing but scud work anyway.

You ain't gonna like it.

-You say the pay is $12 a week? -Yeah.

-l'm liking it already. -All right, then.

Dr. Blalock, this is Vivien Thomas.

Vivien? That's a girl's name.

Yes, my mother was so sure she was having a girl... that she picked the name early, and kept it.

You don't say. l'm pleased to meet you, sir.

Call me Doctor, and, Francis, you can tell this good doctor... that his theories are extremely interesting, and l'll be praying for him.

Yes, Doctor.

Though it's his patients l should be praying for.

Keep up, son.

-This is where my work is done. -What is your work?

Medical research.

We push the limits of surgery... using stray dogs we get from the local dog catch.

They're darling, but don't get too attached.

They're a means to a great end.

The dog pens get cleaned up twice a day. l need the lab swept every morning.

Simple tasks, but they proved beyond the abilities of your predecessors.

Do you think you can handle it?


-So? -So what?

Don't ''so what'' me. Did you get it?

You got it. You must have got it.

-lt's working at a hospital, right? -Yeah. l'm so glad. Everyone's gonna see how smart you are. l don't know how smart you have to be to shovel.

The guy l'm working for, he seemed kind of eccentric... but he is a doctor, yeah.

That's right, he is a doctor. So you just keep your eyes open.

-We can get married now. -Yeah.

Do everything just like we laid it out.

Doctor... and Mrs. Thomas.


-Vivien. -Good morning, sir.

-You said you were a carpenter? -Yes.

-Did you go to high school? -Yes, l did. Got my diploma.

Planning on going to Tennessee State next year... to study medicine, be a doctor.

Unusual ambition for a carpenter. l always wanted to be one since l was a kid. l almost saved up enough money for college... and then slowdown hit.

Those are Van Slyke gas manometers over there.

So you can handle a saw?

-Yeah, since l was 12. -Do tell.

For cutting the lines, my father would measure on the lumber, sir.

Call me Doctor. So your daddy's a carpenter, too?

-What does he think of your ambition? -He's always known l had my mind set on it.

Those apparatus on the workbench, what are they called?

Van Slyke gas manometers, sir, Doctor.

They are, indeed.

Vanderbilt may be a Podunk institution, but l'm gonna put it on the medical map. l'm working on traumatic shock.

Damn thing kills thousands of people every year... and doctors don't know what the hell to do about it.

Let me see those hands.

Pick that up.

Now the left hand.

Good.

Excuse me, Vivien. Dr. Blalock wanted you to have this.

-Thank you. -Good night.


You know what my grandfather did? lt doesn't have anything to do with me going out on strike. l said, ''Do you know what my grandfather did?''

Yes.

He picked cotton in Mississippi, you told me a hundred times.

My grandfather was a piece of property.

No better than that chair or table over there.

His son became a free man at the age of 15.

He raised me with hardly an elementary school education.

Now l see my son graduate college and go on to teach school.

So don't tell me things don't get better over time.

Things don't just get better.

People got to change things, Pop, make them better. lf l don't do something now, l'll be a dead man... before l get paid like white teachers do.

Vivien, you know l'm right about this.

All right, now, Harold, just hold your head. l got reading to do.

To anesthetize Brutus, first we have to calculate the weight.

He weighs 18.4 kilograms.

And it should take 552 milligrams of sodium barbital... to anesthetize him for three hours if the absorption rate is uniform.

Dogs? What kind of doctor is he?

Dogs? What kind of doctor is he?

When you practice on dogs, and then you can help heal people.

-Gives me the willies. -lt's not that bad. l mean, you look inside, you see all the colors... all the pinks and blues, reds. lt's beautiful, Clara. That's where life comes from.

What's this?

What's this?

Open up.

Excuse me, sir. What's going on here?

The bank is closed.

-Closed? -Yup.

Open up.

-Open this door! -Somebody got to see somebody in there.

Open up, it's 10:00. l got to get to work.

Let's go, Vivien, we'll come back later.

No, Clara, something's wrong. lt can't be closed.

Excuse me.

Excuse me, sir. Hello.

Get away from that window, we're closed.

But l have my money in there.

-l need to get my money out. -l can't get your money back for you.

-Why not? Tell me why not. -Go on home, son. The bank has failed.

Sir, that's all my savings. l had my money for school in there. They got my money in there.

-Sir, that's my money for college. -Your money's gone.

Gone?

-But what are they talking about? -They talking about, it's gone, Ma.

We'll all just have to start over.

-Can't fight it now, it's done. -lt just feels so wrong.

Took me seven years to save that money.

You're not the only one who had money in that bank. lt's done, it's over with!

We still got each other, Viv.

Yeah, we got each other.

That's all poor people ever have is each other.

There's no cut down the cannula, the femoral vein. l showed you how to do it. l figured out a way to give it barbital intravenously.

-Where you putting it? -ln the forepaw.

The manometer. lt's all set up, Doctor.

Good.

-You can begin the incision. -l'm not ready for that. l say you're ready, you're ready.

l'll mark out the line. And you cut along it.

Just like you did for your old daddy.

Like this?

Just like that. Keep your hand taut.

Why are we making the incision here?

-To gain access to the pulmonary artery. -And how will we find it, Vivien? lt's the artery leading to the lungs from the right side of the heart.

Not bad.

Now the rib spreader.

And why are we gonna damage poor Brutus' greater vessels?

To induce traumatic shock, to study it.

Watch this manometer.

And imagine that Brutus is a 16-year-old boy... just fell out of a tree saving his mom's cat.

He's broken four ribs, he's concussed.

Dad's rushed him to ER.

But he's gone into shock. His blood pressure's way down.

His vital signs almost nonexistent.

Can we save him?

Not if l use present methods of treatment.

See, conventional wisdom says l should constrict the vessels. l beg to differ. Let's break their rules.

Use my rules.

Body needs blood.

Let's give it some.

How's that gauge?

Still falling.

Maybe the experts are right. Maybe l'm wrong.

Maybe l'll kill this boy and break his mother's heart.

lt's rising.

That's life coming back.

-How's that make you feel? -Good.

Very good, Doctor.

Let's look at the record of our work.

-Where's the smoke drum? -l'm sorry?

The smoke drums.

-You didn't set the smoke drums? -What is a smoke drum?

That's a smoke drum. What the fuck is wrong with you? l record all the information l need for my research on a smoke drum. l did not know that. ls nobody listening to me?

God damn it!

l have to do everything myself.

A whole day's work goes down the toilet, and l have to start all over again.

Do you have sawdust or just plain shit for brains?

Where the hell do you think you're going? Fine, get out of here.

Where the hell do you think you're going? Fine, get out of here.


Vivien. Jesus.

-Hold on a minute, will you? -l was not raised to take that type of talk.

My apologies. l'm sorry l lost my temper.

Normally it takes assistants months to learn what you picked up in a matter of days.

lt won't happen again.

Please.


Ladies and gentlemen. Fellows, take the music down, will you?

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. l mentioned to Gen. Cunningham the other day... how proud we were that Al had chosen us... over all the medical schools in the country.

John, why don't you tell everyone what you said?

Be glad to, Walter. l just got back from a month at the front.

There are thousands of our boys in field hospitals... all over North Africa and ltaly... who owe their lives to Dr. Blalock's work in the treatment of shock. l want everyone here to know how grateful we are to him... and how proud you all should be.

Hear, hear.

-Dr. Blalock, welcome. -Thank you.

Thanks, General. lt's great to have you here, Al... but truth be told, it's Mary we really want.

Our new Chairman of the Department of Surgery... my old and dear friend, Dr. Alfred Blalock.

Thank you, Walter.

Mary and l welcome you all to our home.

As do our dear children.

-Sadie, get them to bed, now. -No!

Thank you, Johns Hopkins, for my prodigal return... after 15 years in the Tennessee backwoods.

To find myself back here.

Dreams do come true.

You're the best surgeons in the country and l'm honored to lead you.

To use a timely reference:

''We'll storm the beaches together. Shoulder to shoulder.''

Lay siege to the mysteries of medicine.

We'll make the kind of progress Hopkins used to be known for. l know we will accomplish great things together.

l'm looking for my next watershed discovery... not to put too modest a point on it. lt's not enough for us to be great surgeons.

We need to be outstanding researchers. Any ideas? Anything innovative?

What about skin grafts? Testing what skin grips might take.

-lsn't skin merely packaging? -No, it keeps out infection.

Excuse me, Doctor, may l suggest something?

Please do. l'm very suggestible. Tell us your name again.

-l run the Harriet Lane Clinic for children. -Dr. Taussig. Yes, of course.

Dr. Longmire, Dr. Kelven, Dr. Cooley. l've read about your research.

-On congenitally malformed hearts. -Yes.

Boy, women and their hearts.

Vivien, would you get Dr. Taussig a drink?

-What would you like? -Champagne would be lovely.

Let's lubricate the vein of inspiration.

Go on, Dr. Taussig, tell us more. lt's something that up to now has been written off as untreatable.

But l don't believe it has to be. l'm speaking of Tetralogy of Fallot.

Blue babies.

Yes, these children, their hearts aren't failing... they're suffocating due to a blockage in the main artery to the lung.

Pulmonary stenosis.

The mortality rate is 100%. l've watched hundreds of cyanotic children die. l admitted a baby tonight who will certainly die... simply because no one has had the courage... to attempt a surgical solution to this.

Maybe with good reason.

To put it mildly, you can't operate on the heart. That's basic.

-We don't have clinical proof of that-- -My point exactly.

-lt's possible for us-- -Denton, you have to stop the heart... to perform a complicated correction within three minutes.

By that time, they're dead. These children are doomed.

There must be a way to get more blood to the lungs. l mean, l doubt we could repair a defect in the heart walls--

Without causing ventricular fibrillation.

But maybe there's a way to avoid interfering with the greater circulation.... lf we focus on the pulmonary artery.

Who on this God's earth are you?


-Brought home some food from the party. -l'm trying to get her down.

Hold on.

Okay, girl. Now go to sleep, baby.

The girls are just getting to bed?

2-ton neighbor upstairs nearly burst through the boards.

-l'm gonna have to fix that. -Are you gonna fix the fat man?

Get him to stop hollering his head off, when the girls is trying to sleep?

Try a deviled egg. They're real good.

Seen better in Nashville.

l want to go home, Viv.

Clara, it's our first week.

Yeah, and you said if we didn't like it, remember?

-Yes. -Our family's in Nashville.

We had a nice home in a good neighborhood. The schools were fine.

Not living in this.... l don't know how we're gonna make it on that paycheck he's talking about... and he got you serving drinks at his party just to make ends meet. Come on.

Try to understand. When l started at Vanderbilt...

-l was a janitor. -l know.

Dr. Blalock saw what l could contribute, and he gave me a chance.

And when they offered him that big job in Detroit... he didn't take it because they didn't take me.

Now l'm a lab assistant to a top surgeon... at the number one medical school in the country.

-lt's a good position. -What about you going to medical school?

You don't have to remind me of that. We have a family now.

Sweetheart, it's important work.

And it's a real opportunity, and l love what l'm doing.

So it doesn't really matter how l feel, then, does it?

Clara, you know it matters.

See that man?

That's Johns Hopkins himself.

Sir William Osler... the father of modern American medicine.

William Halstead, invented the mastectomy.

Let me show you some of the others.

Excuse me. All workers punch in at the rear entrance.

-He's with me. -That don't make any difference.

-Do you know who l am? -No, sir.

Dr. Blalock, Chief Surgical Professor. l'm sorry, Dr. Blalock, but that's the rules.

l'll meet you in the labs, Vivien.

Hey, you need to punch in first.

Thank you.


l can see we've arrived.

When was the last time they used this place?

Have someone clean it up before they put the equipment in. l'll meet you in an hour at the Harriet Lane wards.

Let's see if there's anything in this idea of Dr. Taussig's.


Excuse me?

Good morning.

Where do you think l could find someone to help us clean up the lab, Doctor?

-Who do you think you're talking to? -l'm not sure. l'm Vivien Thomas, l work for Dr. Blalock, running this lab. l'm Dr. Edgar V. Hecker...

Director of Laboratories. l'd like some coffee and a doughnut.

Doctor.

There must be a mix-up.

Listen, l don't stand for insolence. We'll see about this.

-You know, Doctor, there aren't many-- -What?

You'll have to speak up, l can't hear too well in this ear.

You're one of the few women doctors l've seen here.

At least they let me in through the front door.

This is where we keep some of the older kids.

Doctor, why do they squat like that?

A little boy told me that it helps him breathe better. lt cuts off the blood to the legs, pushes it up into the lungs.

They both look very cyanotic.

Here he is now.

-Dr. Blalock. Welcome. -Helen, sorry.

Here is the Saxon baby l was telling you about last night.

Thank you.

She usually smiles when someone does that.

Hello, Mrs. Saxon.

-What is that thing? -lt's an oximeter.

Reads how much oxygen there is in the blood.

She looks cold in there. But l can't hold her.

They say it isn't good for her. l'm not even supposed to let her cry.

How do you keep a baby from crying? Especially if you can't hold her.

You can see the change in the shape and the size of the vessels... as these hearts grow larger. l did necroscopies on some of my patients' hearts.

To study the malformations in detail. lt's amazing they could live at all with hearts like these.

Dr. Gross at Harvard said only God could correct... a narrowing indentation of the left side of the aortic arch.

Perhaps that statement says more about Harvard than it does about God.

That baby back there, how long?

Six months. A year at the very most.

-That's not right. -Are you going to take this on, Doctor?

l want to see all your diagnostic notes.

l'll get them right away.

Thank you.

Put away the books, Vivien.

Let's not waste any more time on theoretical crap.

Let's start with experiments.

Four separate defects of the heart working in combination.

The pulmonary artery is constricted... in the main artery before the divide, diminishing blood supply to both lungs.

And the hole in the septum... causes the used blood to flow back into the arterial system... instead of flowing through the lungs, turning the babies blue.

A baby's heart is delicate. lt's a goddamn minefield.

The first step is to see if we can create the ''blue baby'' condition in a dog... and then come up with a plan to solve it.

You're drinking too much coffee.

Balzac drank 300 cups of coffee in one day.

Of course, he died of a perforated ulcer.

Odds are against us reproducing this in the laboratory.

Are you sure this is the limb you want to climb out on?

Back in '29, when l had TB...

the x-rays showed a big gaping hole in my left lung. l laid there on a freezing porch... in a sanatorium in upstate New York... with 18 blankets on me.

Nothing but my nose exposed to the elements.

Death's a very humbling thing to live with day in and day out.

l swore then... if l got my life back, l would do something important with it.

l know, in every fiber of my being... that this is a limb l want to climb out on.

lt's gonna be hell trying to work with a child's vessels... three or four millimeters thick.

Like sewing over cooked spaghetti noodles.

We'll need the smallest sutures.

We'll need to make our own tools.

-We could be in for trouble, Vivien. -Big trouble.

-Dr. Alfred Blalock to OR, please. -They're driving me crazy.

This goddamn war.

We don't have enough doctors. My surgery cases are through the roof.

We don't have enough doctors. My surgery cases are through the roof. lf l'm not operating, l'm teaching.

You're gonna have to do most of this research.

What'll you need? l need a bulldog clamp small enough for the baby... but strong enough to stop the flow of blood.

What about a breathing device? l'd love a Positive Pressure Respirator, but with this war going on....

Yeah, how in hell can l do the experiments if l can't even get the equipment?

Shut up.

You surely pissed off Ed Hecker.

You mean l disturbed his afternoon nap?

What is it with you and that boy of yours? Thomas.

Why'd you bring him up here?

We've been together more than 12 years.

He's a really good worker.

How about a little wager?

$50?

-Give him a break, Dick. -You're on.

There's a rumor going around you're contemplating heart surgery.

That's an intriguing rumor, don't you think?

Wouldn't it be a feather in our cap if we were the first ones to do it? lndeed, it would. But l hope you'll forgive my skepticism.

There is no reason for us to think it's possible.

And every indicator says it can't be done.

Most of us agree, Al, the risks are huge.

There isn't even any incremental progress.

Where you see risks, l see opportunity.

You gotta take care of that sink up in 4-B.

You said you were gonna fix these steps.

Yes, forgive me, l've been very busy at work. But l will get to it.

The deal is $7 off for odd jobs every month.

You gotta pick up the pace.


With allied forces fighting at Cassino...

German Field Marshal Kesselring has earned a reputation as one of our few....

This is good, sweetheart. lt's got some kick to it tonight.

The same as last night. Just put it on a different side of the plate.

Sometimes it's better the next day. l hope so, 'cause guess what?

Tomorrow it's hash à la king. lt's hash à la queen tonight.

l could get a job.

Who'll look after the girls?

l know it's not Nashville.

And l know... l wouldn't be able to do what l'm doing without you.

My father took care of us, l'll take care of you.

And everything's gonna be just fine. We'll be just fine here. l know, you're right. We'll be fine here.

We're gonna run out of dogs at this rate, Vivien. lt's been three months, and all l'm closer to is retirement.

Things move slow sometimes. No matter what you want. l'm getting close. l've got 30% desaturation. l'm getting close. l've got 30% desaturation.

That dog was faintly blue at best.

Until we get the dog in the same state as the baby, we can't go forward.

-What is the problem? -Every time l constrict, it kills the dogs. l've tried nylon, ligature, umbilical tape, ox facet.

We need a new approach.

Okay, forget constriction.

Try a partial lobectomy. Remove both lobes of the right lung.

Do an arteries to veins fistula, where the medial wall of the aorta... and the pulmonary artery adhere. l'll be in the OR.

That's a very good idea, Doctor. Thank you.

-God damn it! -You did the best you could.

With the condition of his liver, you never had a chance. l always have a chance.

-Get me his autopsy. -Yes.

Shit.

Damn.

-What's that? -Our new respirator. l was rummaging around the machine shop. lt's not pretty, but it works.

lt is pretty.

l knew l could count on you. You're the only one l can trust around here. l suspect others relish the thought of seeing me fail.

Mary!

-There's an ambulance in the driveway. -Good evening.

-There's an ambulance in the driveway. -Good evening.

Gen. Cunningham needed help carting wounded Gl's off the ship.

So l volunteered to be a driver on the base.

-That's wonderful. -Not really. l've a lot of time on my hands.

She wouldn't go to bed?

Not until you came home.

You know what she said today?

She said she wanted to be a patient when she grows up.

So she can get to see her daddy.

l don't remember you wearing a tool belt at your coming-out party.

Guess it has been... a couple of weeks since l made it home before 11:00.

No, it's 23 days.

Not as if l don't know the lot of a doctor's wife... but l miss you.

lt's gonna change. lt's probably gonna get worse.

-Vivien. -Dr. Longmire.

-ls Dr. Blalock in? -No, he's not. l don't know where he is. You should check his office.

That's an interesting procedure. Never seen a clamp like that before.

-lt is for small vascular work. -Where'd you get it? l pieced it together from some things lying around.

Now we're getting somewhere.

You're not even looking. lt's like when you come home late at night, you know?

You know the feel of the room in the dark.

That looks impossible.

No, if l can do it, you can do it.

You see, this string here... that's how you get traction on the suture...

'cause you need a lot of exposure for the anastomosis.

l'd like to work with you sometime.

Fine, Dr. Longmire, that'd be fine.

My emergency rotation starts in 10 minutes, but l can come in on Thursday.

That'd be fine. You have a good day, Doctor.


-What are you doing here? -l was in the neighborhood.

Supreme Court, finally made it.

A long time. You been working on this case for what, nine years?

-No, 12 years. -12 years?

Time.

So, tell me, what was it like?

Nine white guys in big gowns walked in first.

Then the school board lawyers.

Our lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, he looked kind of lonely in there.

You know what them people said in their brief?

Said since colored teachers in Nashville live so cheaply... they should pay us a whole lot less than white teachers.

But let me tell you...

Thurgood said he'd be goddamned if they could get away with that.

So he gets up and says to that white lawyer, ''You're full of it.

''Have you ever read the Constitution?

''The damned 14th Amendment. The equal protection clause says:

'''A government can't discriminate based on race.'''

Yes, Lord. l mean he was good, Viv. l think we got the Board of Education on the run.

That's good news, Harold. So when will they decide?

Could be months, longer. l don't know, but l can wait. After all these years.

All those calls l got in the middle of the night.

White folk telling me they gonna kill me if l don't drop this lawsuit.

No, you gotta show them you won't take that treatment.

Wait. Listen to me when l tell you, you need to leave this sorry-ass place... and that dead-end job.

Harold, Dr. Blalock's doing the best he can for me. lt's not enough.

He trusts me to carry out those experiments on my own. l'm running the whole lab.

-Thank you. -But does he compensate you extra for that?

Now, Harold, Vivien's doing important research now.

But he's forgetting what Granddaddy told us.

He said he regretted acting so grateful for being free... for what really wasn't any freedom at all. l know, l remember.

What you giving him extra for? What's wrong with me?

Nothing minding your own business wouldn't cure.

You got that white coat.

But you're just a class three worker, same as me. ln fact, l got two years' seniority on you. l'm making more than you.

Don't think you're some kind of big shot around here.

Excuse me, buddy. Class three, what does that mean? lt means salary grade.

And, ma'am, and this here? What's this?

Job classification.

What is class three?

Maintenance worker. l'm a lab technician. That can't be.

''Vivien Thomas.''

Okay. Here we go.

''Vivien Thomas, class three.''

Thank you.

-How's it going? -The vessel's tolerating ligation.

Any progress?

lf you kill that dog, l swear l will take it out of your paycheck.

l'm finished up here.

Dr. Longmire, would you mind closing up for me? Thank you.

Come on, Vivien.


l was kidding about taking it out of your paycheck.

Good luck. 'Cause l only make $16 a week.

-For a 16-hour day. -That's all they can pay.

That's all they can pay class three workers around here.

What are you talking about?

That's my job classification.

Who cares what they call you?

You and l both know how valuable the work is that you do. lf my work is so important, then why am l class three?

Two grades below what l do. ln classification and pay. l don't know why. l don't pay attention to bureaucratic details. l see.

Look, at Hopkins you can't be a technician without a college degree.

-And where are you going? -l need to fix some steps.

We have work to do.

Do l have your permission to do some work for my landlord... so l can pay my rent?

Dr. Blalock, could you come here, please?

You're not gonna believe this.

Look at the oximeter.

The gums are blue, Doctor. Vivien did it.

Off, Alfred.

l brought him up here... l gave him this opportunity. l don't set the pay scale. l just don't see what more l can do.

You're probably feeling guilty.

Guilty? What the hell do l have to feel guilty about?

For not sending him to college.

You think l should have sent Vivien to college?

Sure, why not? Told me that was his dream.

-Even mentioned it to me once. -You know l need him in the lab.

l guess there's only so much good one person can do.

Congratulations on the dog.

The kind of raise you're suggesting, how important is this?

He makes it possible for me to be in many places at the same time.

Can't you just hire a well-trained college kid--

No, l can't. His hands are important to me.

He's good at following my instructions, improving on them... better than anyone l've encountered.

You want me to circumvent every administrative regulation... on behalf of a colored helper?

Walter, l'm close to accomplishing something. l need him with me so l can continue with my research.

Can l count on your help?

Hello, Clara.

Dr. Blalock.

Come in, sir.

Thank you.

ls Vivien at home?

Yes, he's putting the kids down.

You know, in 13 years, Dr. Blalock... l don't recall you ever stopping by our house. l don't recall ever being invited.

Professor.

Did something happen?

Yes, l obtained a raise for you, $25 extra a month... on top of what you're already making.

That's $300 for the whole year. Will that be sufficient?

-What job classification? -Surgical technician. l got you promoted.

Promoted. To what he already does.

Excuse me.

You can pay your rent and put all your focus on our research.

Vivien, back there in the lab with Ponchos, what did you do?

What you suggested. A partial fistula. l stitched the main arteries and veins together, end-to-end... and two lobes in the lungs. and two lobes in the lungs.

We created a blue baby's heart in that dog.

Did we?

Now we have our disease model, we can find a cure.

And much as l enjoyed coming here to see you... would you mind terribly if l got you a telephone?

No, not at all.

Thank you.

A shunt.

l'm sorry, Doctor. What'd you say?

We need to create a shunt to get more oxygenated blood to the lungs.

Can't see how to do it.

Remember back in Vanderbilt when we were doing the research... on how to create high blood pressure in the lungs?

Yes, l connected the subclavian to the pulmonary artery.

We failed to get the higher blood pressure... but we did get higher blood flow.

Which is exactly what Dr. Taussig said these babies need.

That's it. We build a bypass.

Take an artery and redirect it.

-Systemic artery to the pulmonary artery. -Through the lungs. lt's a long way around, but it gets you there. lf we wait from the right side, we have an advantage there.

But the recurrent nerve is in the way, and if we kink that--

-Vocal cords parallel. -And the carotid's here.

We may kill the brain if we damage that.

Comforting thought.

The subclavian....

Tie it off.

After the divide.

Cut it right under the clavicle.

Swing it down.

Long, slow general arc.

Will it hold if we pull it down four inches? lf your hands don't get too excited.

Thank you for the vote of confidence.

No one's ever done anything as hard as this.

Changing the course of blood. lt'd turn blue into pink.

And death into life.


l don't care what the chart says.

This girl wants to live.

-Retractor. -No, suture.

Can't we try things my way occasionally?

All right.

Sutures.

Do you mind if l show you something, Doctor?

Thank you.

Do you need any help?

No, that's fine. Thank you.

l have to purse-string the anastomosis.

Okay, there. He's all yours, Doctor.

Do you feel the connection?

Are you sure you did this, Vivien?

This is like something the Lord made.

Look, Mr. Saxon, Mrs. Saxon... l acknowledge that these are uncharted waters.

There are risks.

But l think we have found a way to repair your daughter's heart.

How?

You're stationed, where, Norfolk, is it, Mr. Saxon?

Yes, sir.

Been working on the Spencer, trying to get her back out to sea.

You work on the engines, right?

Yes, sir. l'd be changing around some of the piping... leading to and from your daughter's heart.

-Just switching around the pipes? -Yes.

Arteries that bring the blood... to and from the heart to the lungs... act just like pipes. l've been successful, switching them around.

-lt's that easy? -No, it's not that easy.

No surgery is... and this operation has special complications.

But l still think it's worth doing.

We're going to talk about this, Doctor.

Good idea.

lt's going to be a lot harder with a baby.

We're going to have to collapse one of her lungs.

She's already so cyanotic.

She's not getting enough oxygen... and we're going to have to take away half of her lung function.

You made those new clamps yet? l'm working on it.

What if l shred her insides with those clamps?

So many ways to fail.

Every second counts.

A single minute is too long.

A single minute of poor blood flow to the brain... a single second of open bleeding....

Are you saying I shouldn't allow this doctor... to perform a miracle to save my baby?

We don't get to demand miracles.

Honey, God has his plans.

Maybe we just have to accept it.

But l was so happy when l was pregnant with Eileen.

You know, l haven't had enough time. Why can't God let me get to know her first? l mean, l don't want to go against him.

But why can't His plan be... to let this doctor save her life?

Prof. Blalock.

Mrs. Saxon told me you plan to operate on her baby.

-Have you seen this child, Doctor? -l check on her every day.

And you're still going to proceed? Have you had any success in the lab?

Absolutely. l successfully performed a shunt on a dog just two weeks ago. l can't imagine you're going to proceed based on the laboratory success on a dog.

How many people have you saved?

So what you're saying is you're performing an experiment... not an operation?

My instincts tell me nature made a mistake and l can fix it.

Would you like to see what l've been doing, Father?

Right now my instincts tell me perhaps you should come back another day.

What? Your quest for glory is vain, arrogant. lt takes arrogance to cut someone with a scalpel to save their life. l have no doubt. But if you intervene with God's will... violate the purity of an innocent heart... the parents, not you, Doctor, will bear the burden of guilt.

Perhaps God is, as you say, trying to kill this child. l am not.

Look at this. The shunt gave out.

Looks like a train wreck.

What happened to you, Ponchos?

-Maybe we should just stop here, Doctor. -No.

We using the wrong vessel?

What the hell's going on?

Viv, get up.

Wake up. lt's okay. lt's okay, baby.

-lt's just a nightmare. -My God.

Where the hell have you been, Vivien? l had a dream about this white woman last night.

Perhaps that's something best kept to yourself.

No. l knew it was Eileen Saxon. She was all grown up.

She was sitting there in a corner. She was knitting... and she let out a baby voice... and she fell over dead. l couldn't see it... but l knew on the inside she had a baby heart.

-She just fell over dead. -What the hell does that have to do with....

The stitches didn't grow.

When we did the shunt on Ponchos, he was 10 pounds. He went up to 20.

-He pulled it loose. -l was wrong. Purse-stringing doesn't work.

We need a new stitching technique.

Continuous on the back wall, interrupted on the front wall.

That's what we need.

And then, the shunt will grow.

65% oxygenation. She's deteriorating so rapidly.

-Have we got time to practice the operation? -We can't let up.

-What about the new stitching technique? -We're trying it out tomorrow.

You have to see this.

Vivien Thomas is operating, assisted by the Chief of Surgery.

Pull the inbound vein anastomosis.

Long, slow, general arc. l can't see. Can you see, Vivien? Could you adjust that lamp?

Are the clamps still holding?

-Yes. -No kinking?

None.

All right, now for the tough part.

Continuous sutures on the back wall... interrupted on the front.

Removing bulldog clamp.

Come on, girl.

Come on, please.

That's it, a little bit more. l can feel the flow to the lungs.

Helen, tell the Saxons we'll be operating.

You bet.

You'll be ready.

Yes, now that l've seen the master at work.

Master of the hounds.

Your daddy should be proud of you. l think he is.

Mine was only proud of the fact that l could wiggle my ears. l think he'll be proud when you operate.

He's dead.

The dead are with us all the time, l believe.

Can't separate the past from the future... any more than you can your right arm from your left arm.

But, you see, they are separated... by this, by the heart.

Or connected.

Or connected.

Nolitangere.: Do not touch.

Do not touch the heart.

We are gonna challenge this ancient doctrinal myth... in this hospital. Who wants to attend?

Dr. Swedlin?

Dr. Philmore?

Dr. Cooley.

And Dr. Longmire.

Thank you.

You're dangling your reputation off a cliff.

Calm down, Walter, this isn't grand opera. lsn't a doctor's first tenet: ''Do no harm''?

What are you saying?

Postpone the operation until you have more experience.

Postponing means signing that baby's death warrant.

-l will not be the one to do that. -But they'll ruin you.

Walter, l'm operating tomorrow.

You're rushing this... because you don't want to admit to those parents... that you spoke too soon.


You should come to bed. l tried that.

Can l give you a ride to the hospital tomorrow?

Thanks. l could use the lift. l don't trust myself behind the wheel.

Al, anybody would be nervous. lt's not that.

l was just thinking about a remark you made.

You said l used to be wild... not just ambitious.

But l wonder if my ambition hasn't driven me wild.


Dr. Taussig, Professor. l just wanted to wish good luck to everyone.

Thank you, Vivien.

Thanks, Vivien.

We're going to block that baby's pulmonary artery for 30 minutes.

As long as her blood pressure doesn't go below 60, l think she should be fine. l don't think she can survive much lower than that.

-lsn't that right, Dr. Harmel? -Not below 60. That's right, Doctor.

Dr. Blalock, they're ready.

Doctor.

Coming in now.


Dr. Longmire.

What is going on?

They won't page him.

-Why not? -Something about hospital policy.

Page Vivien Thomas immediately.

Dr. Blalock, what's wrong? What's happened? lt's all right. l won't tell you again. Page him.

-We're only allowed to page doctors. -Give me that, goddamn you.

Vivien Thomas, paging Vivien Thomas.

You're wanted in OR right now. Come on the run, do you hear?

This is Blalock.

-Thank you. -Good luck.

Jesus.

About time. Scrub up.

-Scrub up? -You're coming in with me.

Would you find Mr. Thomas something to stand on?

What for, Doctor?

You're talking me through this. Now scrub up.

What's he doing here?

-What the hell is that? -l'll see about this.

Should we say a prayer?

Forget it. He won't listen to me.

Dr. Blalock, a word.

-You can resume your duties. -These are his duties.

-Can you see now? -Yes, Doctor.

Okay, l think we're ready to start.

Okay, we're going in.

lt's going to be all right. lt'll be just fine.

She'll be all right.

lncising the mediastinum pleura... from the main left pulmonary artery.

To the apex of the pleural space. l'm dissecting the pulmonary artery.

Well back into the mediastinum.

This all right, Vivien?

That looks fine.

The right angle clamp.

Okay, l think it's holding.

Are you able to deliver to the left subclavian artery? l believe so. Blood pressure?

70, falling.

Do not move that light.

And now...

-l'm dividing the-- -Careful.

-Clamp it. -l can't reach it, Doctor. l got it. Hemorrhage controlled.

Can you see, Doctor?

Not really. Nurse.

For goodness sake, can't you even see my ears?

Sorry, Doctor.

Suture.

-Blood pressure is 68. -Yes, go on.

Watch the carotid.

Yes, traction on the suture.

Okay, now the clamp Vivien made.

-What clamp? -The one just there.

Right there, yes.

We're about to connect the shunt.

Blood pressure is 60.

No, 59. l know, l'm almost there.

Now front, interrupted.

That's good, Doctor. Just a little more now.

Removing the bulldog clamp.

-l see some bleeding right-- -l know, l see it, too. Suture.

-No, Doctor, the other way. -Yes.

Good, you got it now.

Bleeding controlled. l'm palpating the connection.

What do you feel?

l can't tell if blood is flowing through the shunt. lt's just too small to feel anything.

Dr. Blalock, you have to see this.

My God.

Her blood pressure is rising.

Evacuate the blood in the chest cavity.

Put in the chest tube.

Are we inflating the left lung with oxygen?

Ready for closure.

Who would have thought it possible?

Heart surgery. And we did it right here in Johns Hopkins.

-Thank you, Dr. Blalock. -Thank you so much.

l knew you could do it.

-Some operation. -Amazing.

That child's chances were so slim. Took a hell of a surgeon to pull her through.

He was lucky to have that nigger in there with him.

Thomas sure saved his ass. l'd like to see him try it without him.

You did well in there, Vivien.

Thank you.

You performed an excellent surgery, Doctor.

Yes.

l think l did.


Please, l understand. This is a hospital. Can you please keep your voices down? l can understand how you all must feel... but we have been overwhelmed with children from all across the country... and then there's just one doctor to perform these operations.

So if you could just go to the administration office... they'll accommodate all of you into Dr. Blalock's schedule... as soon as possible.

All right? l'm terribly sorry.

Making the first incision.

-Are you there, Vivien? -Yes, l'm here.

Thank you for the opportunity to observe, Dr. Blalock.

-lt's an honor, Doctor. -Again, excellent work, gentlemen.

Thank you, Helen. May l introduce my colleagues...

Dr. Helen Taussig, Vivien Thomas. This is Dr. Craford, from Stockholm...

-and Dr. Petrovsky from Leningrad. -Honored to meet you.

You have given surgeons around the world great courage with your deeds.

Coming from such an eminent surgeon as yourself, that is a compliment, indeed. lt's been a great pleasure to meet you, Dr. Taussig.

-Thank you. -Dr. Thomas.

Call me Mr. Thomas, or Vivien.

You're not a doctor?

No, l just work here with Dr. Blalock.

Can we please have all the doctors who participated... in the ''blue baby'' operation in this shot?

There's a young woman who hitchhiked from Appalachia with her son.

And l think his blood levels may be low enough to test.

Talk to Dr. Taussig about scheduling him in. lf you'd all turn and face the center, please, like Dr. Longmire.

-Helen. -Very good.

Thank you, now focus your attention here, please.

Smile, focus here. Hold that.

Good. Now if we could have one of you alone, Dr. Blalock.

Very good, sir. Focus here, if you would.

Here we go, Doctor.

Thank you very much.

They're nice pictures, aren't they? They always have nice pictures.

Just 'cause you're not in the news doesn't mean you weren't there, Viv.

l'll be back.


A man who is a real pioneer... a gambler who takes all the right risks... who's rescued untold lives with his work in shock... and has gone on to challenge the entire medical establishment... to reconsider an age-old taboo... in performing the world's first heart surgery.

Now, without embarrassing myself, I'd like to introduce... a man who has undeniably brought a dash of pink... to the cheeks of others.

Dr. Alfred Blalock.


Thank you. I am indeed honored.

And while I am grateful... for the many gifts that have been given to me in my life...

perhaps the greatest gift has been the support... of my colleagues over this last year.

My good friend, Walter Dandy.

The wonderful, brilliant colleagues who assisted me in our operation.:

Dr. Helen Taussig...

Dr. William Longmire...

Dr. Denton Cooley...

Dr. Mel Harmel.

I believe... one group of people could not have accomplished... so much in so little time without a strong, unified effort... in the spirit of breaking new ground... together.

To further the reach of medicine is one that should be cherished... and never allowed to die.


What the hell is this? l need to do something different.

What about our work?

You got all of those other people you were thanking.

What are you talking about?

Belvedere Hotel.

The Belvedere is segregated. You were there?

Snuck in, just like a bellhop. ls that what this is about, hobnobbing with the powers that be?

Vivien, they will never let you into their club. lt is naive to think otherwise. Will you stand still? l'm not talking about them. l'm not talking about Hopkins. l'm talking about you.

Me?

What have l ever done except fight in your corner? l have taken you every step of the way with me... and now you want to throw all that away? For what? ls that any way to show your gratitude? l don't know. You tell me, Doctor.

Vivien, take pride in the fact you have power in your mind... and in your heart.

-And in my hands. -Exactly, in your hands.

We made history together.

We changed the world.

The world.

l'm invisible to the world. l don't mind that. l understand that.

l thought it was different in here.

Mr. Thomas, I'm a little confused.

Now you want college credit for Morgan State... without actually taking classes? ln certain courses, yes. l'll take the test. l'll take finals...

Chemistry, Biochemistry, Science, Physics.

Also, l can get the credit for material l already know. l need to get through college a little more quickly... so l can get on to med school.

And so you actually participated... in all this groundbreaking research, Mr. Thomas?

Yes, l did. l'm afraid it just doesn't work like that.

You'll have to start with Freshman English.

Social Science, maybe. l don't have time for that. l'm 35 years old.

You're saying that l have to start at the beginning?

Yes, Mr. Thomas. l'm afraid that is in fact what l'm saying. l thought this institution provided opportunity for colored people? l have a wife, two young daughters, son.

And l've been working in my field for over....

Almost 15 years now. l'm from Nashville, l came....


And what can l do for you?

My name is Vivien Thomas. l work for the Ralph Wintham company.

We have a line of pharmaceuticals, particularly antacids.

We already have a supplier of antacids.

Yes, well, these antacids block against gastroesophageal reflux...

-without any adverse side effect-- -Vivien Thomas.

The fellow with the blue babies?

A patient of mine who works at the hospital told me about you.

Hopkins is doing well because of what you did for them... and here you are.

l don't have anything against the hospital. l'm just working in medicine in a different way now.

Let's see what other lines you have.

Yes, we have effervescent powder here....

Oh, William, look who's here?

-Hello. -Say hi to Grandma.

My goodness.

How you doing, sweetheart? Look at him.

Stop running. Go up and wash your hands. And you bring your little sister down.

And be careful on them steps.

What about construction? l keep asking him. ''Thomas and Thomas.''

With the building boom, we could clean up.

Now, he know l can't saw a plank worth a damn.

-Yeah, that's the truth. -Yeah, Dad. l did see that mailbox leaning to the side a little bit. l don't understand why you quit teaching in the first place. l never really liked the classroom that much, Clara.

Too many kids.

But you fought all those years, and you won the case, so--

Exactly.

And quitting now means you've just wasted a whole lot of time.

-No-- -l don't think it's a waste of time. lf Harold wasn't down there doing what he was doing... there'd still be a lot of colored teachers down there getting cheated. l think they ought to name a school after him.

Yeah. Harold Thomas High.

-Harold Thomas High. -Hear, hear.

No, most of these young teachers, they don't know anything about that strike.

They take their equal paycheck for granted.

Harold, you're full of excuses.

There's no point in waiting for the world to thank you.

That bus ain't never going to come.

-Amen to that. -l'm not waiting, Pop. l'm just looking for something that excites me as much as... hammering nails pleases you.

Viv, Jeopardy is on. l'll be in in a minute.

You okay? l'm fine.

Stomach's bothering me a little bit, but l'm fine.

Why don't you take those fancy antacid pills that you always brag about?

lt's your brother? l miss him. l miss the old Harold.

Seems a little lost now. l miss you.

Still got my mind in that lab. lt's not just your mind, Viv. lt's your heart, too. l don't know what l'm supposed to do, Clara. l think l've embarrassed myself enough. l can't go back in there with my tail between my legs. lt's where you belong, Vivien Thomas.

So how you walk back on in there, well, that's up to you.

Yes?

Doctor. Good morning.

How was your trip to Europe?

lt was very gratifying... and how well it seems to have stood on its feet... for this moment in time.

What can l do for you, Vivien? l've made a mistake...

and l would like my old position back.

And how's it going to be any different? l'm still the same self-righteous bastard. lt's not about you. lt's about the work.

l like the work.


Mr. Thomas, we've got an animal going into shock here.

What do we do, sir?

Did you try clamping off the lateral part of the atrium?

Yeah, hold it right there.

-Careful. -Okay.

Yeah. You handled yourself well there, Doctor.

-That's good. -Thank you.

lt started--

There was a message for you, Mr. Thomas. Dr. Blalock wanted to see you. l'm sorry. Would you....

-Tell him l'll see him-- -He's about to leave for the day.

Honey, l have to call you back. Okay.

How's your girls?

They're fine. They're doing well. Theo's in Morgan State now.

-That must feel good. -Yes.

How are things with you?

l've had the unfortunate experience of being put in the hands of a surgeon.

You have something on your mind, Doctor?

Yes, Columbia's been dangling an offer to teach... but l wanted to talk to you first. l really would like you to come with me.

They know about your work. You could write your own ticket. lt's hard to imagine being there without you.

l thank you for thinking of me, Doctor. l think l should stay here.

We could do great things there. Wouldn't it be fun to do it one more time?

One more time.

l like what l'm doing.

Teaching, helping people along. Working with the young doctors. l like it here at Hopkins.

Yeah, l guess you got your own things going on here now. l recognize this man.

-Man looks very distinguished up there. -Thank you, Vivien.

-That was a while ago. -Yeah. l'm feeling the years now.

Yes.

We all are now.

You know, Vivien...

they say you haven't really lived... unless you have a lot to regret.

l regret....

l have some regrets.

But l think we should remember not what we lost...

but what we've done.

All the lives we saved, and we did.

We saved plenty, didn't we, Vivien?

Yes, we did.

No.

Vivien, it's Helen.

I'm sorry to tell you... that Dr. Blalock passed away in his sleep last night.

We see death every day. It doesn't make it any easier, does it?

I'm very sorry.


Today, we honor someone... who never took a course in medical school... and still became one of our greatest teachers of medicine.

This individual helped change the way we understand... how the human heart works forever.

And now I'm honored to read.:

''The Board of Regents of this, the Johns Hopkins University...

''in consideration of an innovative scientist...

''an outstanding teacher, and a skilled clinical technician...

''has this day awarded this honorary doctorate...

''to Mr. Vivien Thomas. ''


Congratulations, Dr. Thomas.

Thank you, Dr. Taussig.

I'm not accustomed to being in the limelight.

So being placed in the position...

I find myself in now... makes me quite humble... and a little proud.

When I put my hammer and saw down...

40 years ago... and was offered an opportunity to work with a young surgeon...

I had no idea...

that I'd be able to make a mark on an institution as prestigious as this one.

I had no idea that I... would have any contribution to make to medicine... that would merit this type of recognition.

I simply say thank you to all of my family... and all of my friends who are here... and to all of my friends who could not be here.

I thank you very much.

This is also a special occasion... to mark the unveiling of your likeness, Vivien.


Paging Dr. Thomas. Dr. Vivien Thomas to the boardroom, please.