The medical advances and changes throughout the history of Covenant Health
could fill this entire book.
Some changes were part of health care while others helped forge the institution’s
identity as a destination for world-class care. One of the signature moments
occurred almost 50 years ago when Dr. Donald Bricker, Dr. Robert Salem,
and the Methodist heart team performed the first open-heart surgery in
Dr. Sam King, a Houston cardiologist, was recruited to Methodist Hospital
in the mid-1960s to start the first catheterization lab, identifying problems
but then having to send patients to larger cities for surgery. Dr. Joe
Arrington, a longtime Lubbock physician and cardiologist, was one of the
primary proponents for Lubbock to invest in the resources to begin performing
Dr. Bricker, who had served as a resident under legendary Houston-based
scientist, inventor and cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Michael DeBakey, where
he met Dr. Salem (who was chief resident at the time), was recruited by
Dr. Salem from Baylor Medical Center to help build an elite cardiac care
program in West Texas.
“I talked with George Brewer, the administrator at that time,”
Bricker said. “Mr. Brewer was a remarkable man. He devoted himself
totally and completely to this hospital. That was his whole focus in life.
I told Mr. Brewer we needed some things here that they didn’t have
and probably never would have if we didn’t make an effort to do
Brewer, a visionary in his own right, supported the initiative, and Dr.
Ray Wilson, a gifted anesthesiologist, went to Houston to work with and
observe Dr. Bricker’s cardiac surgery procedures. Additionally,
the team would require someone to operate the heart-lung machine as well
as manage the operating room and recovery room nurses.
“When we came out here, we held classes,” Dr. Bricker said.
“I went through step by step with the nurses showing the instruments
that we were going to use. I had to instill in the team the idea, ‘Hey,
we don’t want to run helter-skelter, but we must do everything as
rapidly as we can. Do it right. Always do it right, but then do it faster
and faster and faster.”
The team prepared for months until Nov. 24, 1970, when 27-year-old Janie
Morales became the first patient to have open-heart surgery in West Texas.
“She had a large septal defect that needed to be corrected, and she
would be an ideal first case because she was suitable body size,”
Dr. Bricker said, referring to a condition in which a person is born with
a hole between the upper two chambers of the heart. “I talked to
Janie and sat down with her, answered every question, told her exactly
what was going to happen. The case went very well. I don’t think
it took more than an hour and a half.”
“While the Morales surgery was a pivotal point in the development
of the Methodist heart program, it was also the culmination of many years
of work building a leading comprehensive heart and vascular program,”
said Dr. Salem. A few of the many important developments included:
- Dr. Salem pioneering the first peripheral vascular procedures such as abdominal
aortic aneurysms in West Texas in the 1960s;
- Diagnostic cardiology catheter procedures in the early 1970s;
- The discovery of obstructions in the coronary arteries of patients who
required more advanced cardiac surgery;
- Cardiac surgical procedures, including open-heart surgery performed in Lubbock.
"Faith and Healing - Celebrating Covenant Health's Century of
Caring" will be available for purchase early 2018.