I stand in awe of the little dandelion. She is a wonder of evolution. Each plant is composed of may flowers or florets grouped together in a composite head to create the yellow flower we’re all familiar with. The dandelion doesn’t reproduce sexually–no birds and bees involved here. For the dandelion pollination is not required for reproduction, rather each seed develops asexually and is an exact genetic copy of the parent plant. What really excites me about the dandelion though is that she’s an explorer at heart. Driven by the wind, each seed sets out on what could be a most incredible journey. It’s not unusual for these little ships to travel 10 miles with a good wind in their sails. They’ve even crossed mountain ranges to settle a new world on the other side.
I have a special place in my heart for those who dare to explore, to discover, to sail uncharted waters, to boldly go where no one has gone before. From our earliest days some among us were different, not content with sitting in one place they took our species’ first tentative steps out of Africa. Thousands of years later when they ran out of land they began the human love-affair with oceanic exploration. Over the centuries these intrepid explorers searched the far corners of the earth and slowly gave shape to the world. When we ran out of earth and sea an extraordinary group of people set their sights on the unthinkable–space. By 1969 a man named Neil Armstrong took humankind’s first steps on another heavenly body. While these feats clearly required great bravery and passion, some of the best discovery comes from exploration that tests the limits of the human mind. In the 1940s two men, Alfred Blalock and Viven Thomas, walked where no one else had trodden. They aren’t as famous as Armstrong, Scott or Drake but they are no less significant. Together they worked crushingly long hours to develop a surgical technique and devices that might save babies born with congenital heart defects. After years of work that included inventing devices never before conceived, they entered the operating suite on November 29, 1944 and did what many thought immoral and most thought impossible; they performed a corrective cardiac surgery on a baby. The Blalock-Thomas-Taussig shunt would go on to save countless babies with congenital heart defects and though modified, it is still in use today. Eight years ago it saved a pretty special life–my son’s.
To the explorers! You take us new and exciting places. You inspire us with your spirit. You move us forward and make us better today than we were yesterday. You save the lives of those we hold most dear. You are the very best among us.
To learn more about Blalock and Thomas and their incredibly improbable journey take some time to watch HBO’s Something The Lord Made–it’s available on DVD on Amazon. The inspiration for the movie, a 1989 article written by Katie McCabe and published in the Washingtonian, is available here as a PDF–Like Something The Lord Made.