Through the early 1950s, nearly 20,000 children were born each year with congenital heart defects. The majority of these “blue babies” would die almost immediately. The pioneering surgeon C. Walton Lillehei performed the first successful repair of a ventral septal defect. But even after this miraculous intervention, Lillehei’s patients were not in the clear. The team discovered that after surgery, the children’s hearts could still unpredictably stop beating if there was damage to the vulnerable electrical conduction system. A solution existed, but it was far from ideal. Cardiologist Paul Zoll had recently developed a large pacemaker machine that could deliver periodic electrical impulses through electrodes strapped to the chest. Though it saved lives, the treatment was painful, and the child’s mobility was limited to the length of the electrical cord.
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Accepted: August 13, 2018
Received in revised form: August 10, 2018
Received: August 8, 2018
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