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Surgical Reminiscence
September 2000

Good Cheer!

Arch Surg. 2000;135(9):1116-1118. doi:10.1001/archsurg.135.9.1116

EARLY IN the evening on October 19, 1956, Margaret Curtin came to the emergency ward at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (MGH), because of 15 hours of abdominal pain. She had rheumatic heart disease with auricular fibrillation and mitral stenosis, and had suffered a small stroke a week earlier. We were already swamped with surgical patients: an incarcerated hernia, appendicitis, a ruptured spleen, bilateral popliteal emboli, and an 18% third-degree burn. Another 10 hours passed before Mrs Curtin went into the operating room. Her abdomen was opened. The entire small bowel was blue-gray and pulseless. The colon was normal. The main superior mesenteric artery was exposed near the Treitz ligament. There was no pulse. The artery was opened and a large embolus gushed out. The artery was closed. The bowel became pink and a loud, joyous, spontaneous cheer filled the operating room. The abdomen was closed, and a second-look laparotomy the next day revealed that all of the intestine remained viable.

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