Blood and the United States Army: A Woman from Chadwicks - Part Five

This is Part Five of a six-part series of news columns that detail the human side of the heart surgeries that took place in the 1950s. This article tells how the United States Army came to the rescue and helped save my mother's life by giving the Gift of Life -their blood. Nurses General Nursing Article

Blood and the United States Army: A Woman from Chadwicks - Part Five

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

On the morning after my mother, Alice McDonough, had her second heart surgery – it was a Saturday morning – my father, James McDonough, got a telephone call from Dr. Robert P. Glover.

There had been complications following the open-heart surgery.

The doctors needed more blood.

Alice McDonough had been given a tracheotomy – her throat was cut open while wide awake – with no anesthesia. She needed to breathe and the attending doctor acted quickly to again save her life.

Robert Trout - University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Robert Trout is seen here being honored at Presbyterian–University of Pennsylvania Medical Center (now known as “Penn Presbyterian Medical Center”) in Philadelphia in 1979. (Photograph is provided courtesy of The Presbyterian Medical Center Records of the University of Pennsylvania Archives, 1979.)

Both Dr. Robert G. Trout, the person likely to have done that surgical procedure as a member of the team of doctors assembled by Dr. Glover, and my mother each told me that they recall the words the doctor said that morning as he cut her throat: “Hold still little girl.” She did. She understood that her life was in his hands.

In the phone conversation with my father in 1958, Dr. Glover explained that Alice McDonough had been immersed in a tank of ice after the tracheotomy. The goal was to lower her body temperature and allow her heart to slow down.

She remained immersed in that tank of ice for three days. I’m told that you would not have been able to see her body in the ice. Instead, you would only have seen the tubes connected to her body coming out of the tank.

James McDonough rarely showed emotion throughout his life. But on that day, he hung up the telephone and sobbed in the arms of his mother-in-law, Caroline Watson. His wife was slipping away in a tank of ice with a hole in her throat.

He knew what he had to do.

He wiped his eyes and put on a sports jacket and went in search of blood.

On a Saturday morning. In December of 1958.

My father was aware that the United States Army Reserve was training that Saturday at the nearby PH-67 Village Green Nike Missile Base in Aston Township in Delaware County in the suburbs of Philadelphia. During the 1950s, the United States Army maintained a series of missile bases and silos throughout the region to protect Philadelphia and surrounding communities from foreign military attack. Aston, located just outside of Chester, was the location of one of these missile bases. Within miles of that base were the Sun Shipyard in Chester, the United States Navy Yard in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia International Airport, and oil refineries in several communities.


An aerial view of the PH-67 Village Green Nike Missile Base in Aston, Pennsylvania, in 1958.

My father spoke with the commander at the missile base and asked for his assistance.

The commander agreed to help. He assembled all of the men and explained that the request that was about to be made was one that each man should consider as a volunteer – not as an order.

My father then explained to the men that his wife was in desperate need of blood. That he needed their help. I can only imagine the words he used to beg those men to help save his wife.

I am told that every single man assembled that day at that Nike Missile Base agreed to volunteer. They stopped their Army training (and the Army let them stop their training for that day) and all drove into Philadelphia. At The Presbyterian Hospital, the men were individually given blood tests to determine which blood was compatible.

Twelve men had the needed blood type.

I do not know the names of those twelve men, but I and my family owe them a debt that we will never be able to pay. Their blood helped save my mother again. And soon thereafter, would help provide the nourishment for my mother to carry me and allow me to be born.

Part Six of this series will explain how a life, while not perfect, was made worth living. How knowing that life, no matter how short in duration, could be used to confront silence in the face of evil.

To read the entire story, please go to:

How One Doctor Gave Life to Many and How One of Those People Made That Life Worth Living - Part One

Life-Saving Surgeries: A Woman from Chadwicks - Part Two

Dr. Robert P. Glover - the Surgeon Who Saved My Mother's Life with Pioneering Heart Surgery - Part Three

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

Blood and the United States Army: A Woman from Chadwicks - Part Five

Facing Evil: A Woman from Chadwicks - Part Six

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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I loved seeing that picture of Dr. Trout ! I was actually working as an RN in the CCU that he started at Penn-Presbyterian in 1979 ( started in 1977). Recognized him right away ! Amazing man he was !