#2. A Missed Injection Revolutionizes Heart Surgery
The tricky thing about hearts, besides how breakable they are, is that you can't see them. Usually that isn't a problem, but when we're talking about a guy who's spent a lifetime choosing among KFC, Taco Bell and cutting out the middleman altogether by spooning Crisco into a cone and calling it a day, figuring out which arteries are lard-clogged is kind of important. X-rays are great for broken bones, but not so much for the complicated veins pumping around the heart.
Keeping doctors in business since there were doctors.
By the 1950s, however, heart geniuses had a shockingly simplistic solution: dye. Researchers discovered that they could use catheters to deliver contrast dye to parts of the heart, and the dye would show up on X-rays, revealing abnormalities. There was only one hitch: getting the dye to the right heart parts. They wanted to get close, but not too close. The aortic valve worked for contrast dye, because it's just a one-way train for the blood leaving the left ventricle. It's not like the aortic valve could pump dye to the whole heart and give the patient a dye heart attack.
Which is exactly where F. Mason Sones comes in. In 1958, Sones was just about to inject some contrast dye into the aortic valve of a patient with rheumatic heart disease when the catheter slipped. And just like every other time you hear the phrase "the catheter slipped," this was bad news. Instead of going to the aortic valve, the dye went straight to the right coronary artery, also known as the subway that delivers blood to both ventricles of the heart, also known as "the place where you can't inject dye without killing the patient."
"Shit. Uh ... my bad."
This was about the time that Sones understandably got ready for some fibrillation, also known as the thing that makes the heart stop working and makes the patient die.
Sure enough, the patient's heart stopped. Instead of berserking out, like most of us would, Sones asked the patient (WHO WAS APPARENTLY AWAKE) to cough, which he did. And the heart started beating again, just like that.
Not only was the patient still alive, but now he had a set of glossy X-rays of his heart to keep as a memento of the time his doctor accidentally killed him with heart dye, then brought him back to life. And just like that, the realization that you could get dye into that crucial part of the heart without killing the patient revolutionized the heart-fixing industry. Sure, a little less dye was advisable on account of the whole flatlining thing, but getting pictures of the whole heart was now totally doable. Within less than 10 years, one of Sones' colleagues had performed the first recognized coronary bypass surgery.
Not bad for a guy who slipped a catheter.
#1. Oskar Minkowski and the Dog Pee That Changed the World
Oskar Minkowski's greatest contribution to the world of medicine began with a won bet and a puddle of dog piss. If you're not intrigued yet, you should know that the puddle of urine has probably saved the life of someone you know, if not you directly.
In 1899, Dr. Oskar Minkowski was minding his own business at a university library when he ran into his colleague Josef von Mering. Like most doctors who stumble into each other in academic settings, the two immediately began arguing over whether or not someone would survive having his pancreas removed. Von Mering said "nein," and Minkowski said "da." And to prove he was right, Minkowski ripped the pancreas out of a dog that very afternoon.
That's dog for "Oh no you di'int!"
And that was when things got interesting.
The dog survived, of course, because as we now know, pancreas removal is a thing. But more importantly, Minkowski noticed that flies started loving the shit out of the dog's pee. They flocked to it and drank it like it was fly champagne. While most of us would have chalked it up to the fact that flies are inherently nasty, Minkowski had the good sense to scoop that pee up and test it.
And the rest is history.
The urine proved chock-full of sugar, which was an indication that the dog now had diabetes. And because Minkowski knew the dog was healthy before the removal of its pancreas, he correctly concluded that there was a relationship between the pancreas and diabetes. Specifically, he figured out that there was something in the pancreas that was controlling metabolism of sugar in the body. It took about 20 more years for two other scientists to figure out that the mystery pancreatic substance controlling blood sugar was actually insulin, but they never would have gotten there if it hadn't been for Minkowski's eagerness to remove a dog pancreas and his double eagerness to test that dog's sugar pee.
Via Wikimedia Commons
We don't want to know how he tested it.
In other words, while you have to be smart to make important scientific discoveries, making world-changing discoveries requires that you be just a bit crazy.
And pick up our accidental masterpiece: You Might Be A Zombie ....
For more folks whose bad luck turned good, check out 5 Accidental Inventions That Changed The World and 6 Global Corporations Started by Their Founder's Shitty Luck.
And stop by Linkstorm to see how Swaim was lucky to be given a conscience.
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