MEDICINE

The last of the theatrical operations

Surgeons at Toronto General Hospital lose their viewing gallery in exchange for a new wing

CATHERINE RODD December 22 1980
MEDICINE

The last of the theatrical operations

Surgeons at Toronto General Hospital lose their viewing gallery in exchange for a new wing

CATHERINE RODD December 22 1980

The last of the theatrical operations

MEDICINE

Surgeons at Toronto General Hospital lose their viewing gallery in exchange for a new wing

Four times a day, five days a week, cardiovascular surgeons at Toronto General Hospital (TGH) raise their scalpels and begin an arduous six-hour odyssey into the heart to repair the ravages of coronary disease—the leading killer of adult Canadians. This year, TGH surgeons will perform almost one-fifth of the 4,000 such lifesaving operations in Canada, following procedures and using equipment largely pioneered in the green-tiled ninth-floor operating theatres of the 150-year-old teaching hospital.

These rooms have seen the debut of the cardiac pacemaker, valve replacement and hypothermia (rapid cooling to slow bodily functions). Here, too, the slice and stitch of the surgeon’s craft was rigorously refined by world-renowned surgical teacher Dr. William Gallie. Today, many top surgeons and former students (affectionately known as Gallie’s slaves) owe their expertise to his passion for perfection.

But as budgets constrict, there is little time for nostalgia. Last month, TGH closed the historic operating theatres and moved its surgical facilities to a new wing. For their finale in the old wing, surgeons replaced the faulty heart valve of a 27-year-old man with that of a pig and did a quadruple bypass operation on four cholesterolclogged arteries of a 60-year-old man. Standing transfixed above them were the last spectators in the spacious overhead gallery which, despite its dramatic appeal, is too costly to figure in the new no-frills wing.

While this promises surgery students

less looking and more hands-on training, other students will rely on film instead of glassed galleries for their knowledge. From now on, as new surgical advances are made, there will be fewer cheerleaders on the sidelines.

-CATHERINE RODD