Wednesday, January 11, 2017

On This Date in Minnesota History: January 11

January 11, 1913 – A pint of blood from the wrist of Henry Foss, Golden Valley, spurted into the veins of his sister, Mrs. C. H. Michealson this evening at the Swedish Hospital in an operation physicians declare without parallel in Minneapolis.

The operation, known as an arterial transfusion of blood, was made necessary by the anemic condition of Mrs. Michaelson. It was pronounced a success tonight by hospital authorities that brother and sister would recover soon, in fact, that the brother, who is a robust young dairyman, is expected to be back at work within a day or two.

This was the first case of transfusion of blood done at the Swedish Hospital in the 15 years of its life, according to G. W. Olson, superintendent, “and the first one of arterial transfusion of which I have heard in Minneapolis. It is a wonderful rare and remarkably delicate surgical feat and not often attempted.”

The Swedish Hospital, Minneapolis Minnesota, 19211

Several Minneapolis surgeons said they had read of similar cases, but knew of none ever having been performed in this vicinity.

The operation was performed by Dr. Charles Kistler, Mrs. Michaelson’s physician, and several assisting surgeons. It was witnessed by a number of surgeons and by the entire corps of 25 nurses of the Swedish Hospital.

The operation was completed late this evening. It was not performed in the daytime because Foss, the young man who volunteered his blood to save his sister and renew the vigor of her impoverished physical condition, could not leave his work during the day.

He came to Minneapolis tonight from the dairy where he works and declared himself ready and willing for the blood transfusion.

Neither patient took an anesthetic. Foss, though, was forced to submit to considerable pain, as the necessary incision into his wrist was quite deep. Those present said he stood the pain with remarkable fortitude.

Mrs. Michaelson is 27 years old and her brother 22.

Mrs. Michaelson had not been strong since an illness two years ago. Dr. Kistler determined recently that the infusion of healthy blood into her veins was necessary in order to save her life.

Her husband, though anxious to give his blood, was not deemed a suitable patient, as he is none too robust himself. His request was denied; it was then her brother volunteered.

Superintendent Olson explained the operation in its entirety.

“It consists,” he said,” of exposing and severing a vein in the arm of the receiving patient and exposing and severing an artery in the wrist of the other patient. A little silver coupling was attached to the exposed vein in Mrs. Michaelson’s arm and the artery in Foss’ wrist. The vein was then drawn through a tiny nipple and attached to the artery with a silk cord.

“This allowed the blood to pulsate from the artery into the vein, touching nothing but the arterial walls. It has been found by surgeons that to allow the blood to touch metal or any extraneous substance has a bad effect.

“In the operation tonight the blood was allowed to pulsate into Mrs. Michaelson’s vein for about 30 minutes. During that time she received a full pint of blood from her brother.

The instruments used are so delicate that skill equal to that of a watchmaker in handling tiny articles was made necessary in addition to the surgical knowledge possessed.

That the transfusion of her brother’s blood would have a decidedly beneficial effect on Mrs. Michaelson was the opinion expressed by the attending surgeons tonight.


Mrs. Michaelson died January 17, 1913, of puerperal septicemia, a form of blood poisoning usually associated with an obstetric delivery or procedure, although she had not recently given birth.

Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Brother Gives Blood to Save Sister’s Life. Henry Foss, Golden Valley Volunteers a Pint of Life Fluid. Mrs. C. H. Michaelson Weak From Long Continued Illness. Arterial Transfusion Necessary for Her to Regain Her Strength. Remarkable Operation at the Swedish Hospital Is Successful. Physicians Say Case Is Without Parallel in Minneapolis.”; Jan. 12, 1913; p. 1.



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