Entertainment Books

Saturday 20 September 2014

From open-air to open-heart surgery at the Mater

John Spain Books Editor

Published 19/09/2013 | 05:00

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Surgery under way in the main operating theatre in the Mater in 1892
Christian Barnard, who carried out the world's first heart transplant, meeting nurses when he visited the Mater in 1967

IT is an incredible look inside an operating theatre from the 19th century.

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Ether is being administered to the patient from a bellows, some of the staff are wearing suits, towels hang on a rail, the surgical equipment is rudimentary.

A nurse keeps a basin handy, and an open window provides plenty of fresh air.


A new history of the best-known hospital in the country, the Mater in Dublin, includes the dramatic pictures of operations being carried out there more than a century ago.

This photograph shows a patient undergoing what looks like ankle surgery in the main operating theatre in 1892.

'Caring for the Nation' tells the story of the hospital that has been at the centre of city life for 150 years.

Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1861, The Mater was the only refuge open to the poor of the Dublin tenements who were ravaged by smallpox and cholera epidemics at the time. In more recent years, the Mater became a leading teaching hospital at the forefront of developments in antibiotics and cardiac care.

Another photograph in the book shows Christian Barnard, the South African surgeon who carried out the world's first heart transplant operation in 1967, meeting nurses when he visited the hospital.

The first heart transplant in Ireland was carried out at The Mater by surgeons Maurice Neligan and Freddie Wood in 1985.

The new book recounts how The Mater had been caught up in the War of Independence and was raided regularly by British soldiers.

The book is published by Gill & Macmillan and is priced at €30.

Irish Independent

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