On the evening of July 8, 1893, James Cornish was stabbed in the chest during a barroom brawl on Chicago’s South side. He was rushed to Provident Hospital, founded in 1891 by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams (1856-1931).
Dr. Williams was one of only four African American physicians in Chicago at the time. A former barber and son of a barber, he decided to give up the barber’s trade and follow his growing interest in medicine. He enrolled in Chicago Medical College, known today as Northwestern University Medical School, in 1880. After graduating in 1883, Dr. Williams open his own practice.
At the time African American doctors were not allowed to practice in white hospitals. So, in 1891 Dr. Williams opened America’s first interracial hospital, Provident Hospital, with a total of only twelve beds.
James Cornish was in a desperate state when he was admitted. He was bleeding internally and sure to die. Dr. Williams decided to act. Without the benefit of adequate anesthesia, x-rays, antibiotics, penicillin, or blood transfusion, Dr. Williams opened Cornish’s chest. The patient’s heart was beating 130 times per minute. Carefully, Dr. Williams repaired a severed blood vessel and stitched up a one inch cut in the pericardium surrounding the heart.
James Cornish survived the operation. Fifty-five days later, he left Provident Hospital to live another twenty years.
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performed the first successful open heart surgery in medical history. It was not until World War II that heart surgery became an accepted part of medical practice.
Until next time, be good to all God’s creation and always walk under the mercy.