My Story: Hugh Michael Edenburn

by SparkMedia
March 30, 2018  |  Partners of the Heart

One of our favorite parts about working on documentary film is when we hear from people who connect to the topics and issues we are covering. Spark Media’s first feature documentary Partners of the Heart was broadcast 15 years ago – though it remains one of our personal favorites.

A few weeks ago, we received a message from Hugh Michael Edenburn, who was one of the first blue babies saved by Vivien Thomas, Alfred Blalock and Helen Taussig. He generously allowed us to share his personal story, which was written by Diane Cyr, for our blog. Please enjoy this moving tribute!


Michael 1945

Seventy-four years ago I was not expected to live to school age. I was born a “blue baby”—a child with a malformed heart unable to pump sufficient oxygen to the lungs. Day by day, this hole in my heart was robbing me of energy, breathing and life. Doctors said it was hopeless. By the time I was three, they predicted I would be bedridden. By five or six, I would likely be dead. I remember squatting a lot. My parents told me I was short winded and had no energy prior to my surgery and I was always blue, especially my lips and fingernails.

But my parents, devout Catholics, never gave up hope. After hearing about a doctor and a self-trained medical technician who had developed a new heart procedure, they felt they’d found an answer—never mind that the procedure was new and had been performed on only a few children. During October 1945, when I was two years and seven months, Dr. Helen Tausig, Dr. Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, literally brought me back to life by connecting the artery from my right arm to the pulmonary artery going to my lungs. This increased the percent of oxygen in my blood and I turned from blue to pink in a heartbeat. For the first time in my life, I was able to breathe freely.

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My life is a miracle. I am now a healthy 76 years old. I am computer specialist, entrepreneur, family man, devoted Catholic and constant volunteer with friends from everywhere. As an active member of Rotary Club of Cebu, I have a special place in my heart (of course!) for the Gift of Life program, which provides life-saving surgery to children who, like me, are born with heart problems. I want to encourage the children we are helping to know that they can also live long, wonderful and productive lives.

Decades ago, children with heart problems had only the slimmest hope of growing up healthy. Today, sick children have all the hope in the world. And thanks to the Rotary Club’s Gift of Life program, even families in need can take advantage of the kind of heart surgery that first saved my life 74 years ago, and now saves countless young lives every day. If you are interested in the work that they do or would like to donate, you can learn more here.

Written by Diane Cyr.  

RELATED: Please click here to read the Johns Hopkins Medicine article about Hugh Michael Edenburn’s return to the hospital in 2019, 74-years after his life-saving operation.