Blood of Chester, Norristown, and Coatesville: A Woman from Chadwicks - Part Four

This is Part Four of a six-part series of news columns that detail the human side of the heart surgeries that took place in the 1950s. This fourth article details how blood from labor and management made a continuation of my mother's life possible. Nurses General Nursing Article

Blood of Chester, Norristown, and Coatesville: A Woman from Chadwicks - Part Four

To read Part 1, go to How One Doctor Gave Life to Many and How One of Those People Made That Life Worth Living - Part One

Many people worked together for a common goal – the life of one woman, my mother, Alice McDonough. People living in Chester, Norristown, Coatesville, Lima, Trainer, Prospect Park, Philadelphia, and other communities in Pennsylvania helped save my mother.

James McDonough, my father, coordinated efforts with the doctors to secure blood donors. You see, at that time in the 1950’s, in many cases, patients had to supply their own sources of blood for surgeries or patients had to guarantee that they would re-supply the hospitals with blood to replace the amount that was used in their surgical procedures.1257652932_AliceMcDonough.jpg.d3af70bab0f4fdad79e8375272fe3d38.jpg

“Fresh” blood was needed for use in the heart/lung machines. Donors who had been tested to determine that their blood would be compatible with the patient would arrive at the hospital shortly before the actual surgery to donate their blood.

Dr. Robert P. Glover and others on his team spent weekends in Chester testing people to see if they had the correct blood type – A. Rh. positive.

James McDonough secured support from both labor and management at his place of employment, Sun Shipyard in Chester. Members of the local union at Sun Shipyard, neighbors, and others lined up to be tested to provide the blood needed for my mother to have her second heart surgery. My father explained that Sun Shipyard provided a guarantee that any additional blood needed, beyond the blood raised, would be paid for by the company. (I’m told that the guarantee was not used because my father and the doctors were able to secure all of the needed blood.)

In the cabinet near my mother’s bed were notes listing the people who gave blood to sustain her life. Some of the names were recognizable to me from photos of Chester in the 1950’s. But I did not recognize most of the names. While I was never able to personally say “Thank You” to all of them, I did have the opportunity to personally thank four of them.

Two of the men listed introduced themselves at my father’s funeral in 1993. One came up to me and poked me in the chest. He said “You’re here because of me.” I knew what he meant. I was able to say “Thank You” to both of those men at that funeral.

Shortly after my mother’s funeral in 2009, I was able to locate two other men who had donated blood in 1958. Both wished to remain anonymous but both hail from the suburbs of Philadelphia – one in West Norriton, one in Lower Providence. Both men gave blood through the request that my father had made to Local 428 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry in Norristown. My father and both of these men were plumber steamfitters. (This union local is now part of a larger local that includes ten counties in eastern and southeastern Pennsylvania.)

I expressed my deep thanks to both of those men for what they did in 1958.

One of the men explained that he remembered seeing my mother at The Presbyterian Hospital. She was in a room there, he explained, and looked in bad shape. Both men were proud that they could help.

Among others listed in the notes were two employees of Lukens Steel in Coatesville.

I was proud to see that companies like Sun and Lukens Steel worked together with their local unions to help one family.

Recall that I don’t believe in coincidences.

In 1990, I was able to personally thank the leader of Sun at a function in Orlando, Florida. We were both there to attend a meeting of the American National Red Cross. I treasured the fact that I could express my family’s appreciation to Sun for its leadership in 1958. The likelihood that we would both be in the same place at the same time was more than a coincidence.

I did not know of the involvement of the Lukens Steel employees until seeing those notes in my mother’s cabinet in 2009.

The family that had run Lukens Steel during the 1950s is now among leaders in philanthropy in Chester County, Pennsylvania. In recent years, I was able to thank that family – the Huston family – for their leadership.

You see, the Huston family helped with a community project in recent years. In 2007, we worked together to provide 20,000 diapers for families of the Pennsylvania National Guard in six counties in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Part Five of this series will detail the involvement of the United States Army in saving my mother’s life.

If you have a question or a suggestion about nursing, please contact Richard McDonough at [email protected].

Your question or suggestion may be used in a future news column.

© 2019 Richard McDonough

Richard McDonough is a freelance journalist whose work has been published in a number of digital news sites, newspapers, and magazines in the United States and in Europe. He’s also broadcast business news for a television station. Mr. McDonough was honored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews with the Gold Medallion Mass Media Award for outstanding contributions to better human relations and the cause of brotherhood. One of the approaches utilized by Mr. McDonough is civic journalism. The concept includes investigative efforts showing people how to solve civic problems and enhance civic opportunities. Several key elements include presenting the facts in a way that provide context to each situation; going to the original source for information, when and where possible; not presenting both sides of an issue, but instead, presenting all sides of an issue – whether that be 2 sides or 17 sides; and attributing all key facts to specific sources. A portfolio of his work can be viewed at TwoCents.News. Mr. McDonough has been active in charitable activities throughout the United States. His charitable efforts have been recognized by two Presidents and two national non-profit organizations. Mr. McDonough can be reached directly at [email protected]​​​​​​​.

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Specializes in CRNA, Finally retired.

Thank you for this interesting bit of history. I use to donate blood for those pumps frequently..A-..the day before the surgery. It just doesn't seem THAT long ago:)