Eugene Braunwald: Maestro Of American Cardiology  pg. 2

However, a year later, serendipity came into play. One of Braunwald’s patients with an implanted carotid nerve stimulator was admitted to the hospital with an AMI. Fearing that stimulating the carotid sinus nerves would exacerbate the evolving MI, Braunwald asked the patient to turn off the device. The patient ignored him and continued to press the stimulator to relieve his pain. Eventually, after several “on-off” episodes, Braunwald, in exasperation, removed the stimulator’s battery pack.

Later, when he was reviewing the patient’s electrocardiogram, which had been recorded throughout this period, Braunwald realized that the “patient was a lot smarter than I.” The oxygen deficiency of his patient’s heart actually improved whenever he stimulated his carotid sinus nerves, and worsened when Braunwald turned off the stimulator—the exact opposite of what he had expected. He was thunderstruck.

“That gave me the idea that you might actually be able to modify an MI while it is progressing,” says Braunwald.

Sound of music

Performance of "Aida" at the Metropolitan Opera in the late 1940s or early 1950s, around the time that Eugene Braunwald was paid a dollar a night for his role as a spear carrier.
Couresy of the Metropolitan Opera Archives
Eugene Braunwald was born in Vienna, Austria, on August 15, 1929. He had what he terms an “idyllic childhood” as the firstborn son of a well-to-do Jewish wholesale clothing merchant, William Braunwald, and a homemaker mother, Clara, living in a fine neighborhood, attending an excellent private school, tutored in English and piano, and beginning to partake of the famed cultural offerings of Vienna.

Braunwald’s life took a chilling turn on March 12, 1938, however, when the Nazis occupied Austria. He was immediately expelled from school.

Only a few days later, an SS officer arrived at the Braunwald home (which was attached to the business) and methodically set about liquidating the business holdings, keeping the profits for himself. Two months later, a group of Nazis barged into the home at around 3:00 a.m. and arrested William Braunwald, throwing him into a truck and carting him and other detainees to the train station to be shipped off to a “work” camp.

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