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Patient Conscious During Heart Surgery

Through such indomitable thinking, the Chinese claim they have found a cure for deaf-muteness. In 1968 an army medical team began applying acupuncture, the ancient Chinese medical practice of stimulating certain nerve points with needles, to the cure of deafness.

Wang Chen-ying explained: "Chairman Mao says, 'If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must eat it yourself.' We tried needles on our own bodies to find the proper acupuncture points. We sometimes feared we would injure ourselves, but with Mao's thought 'Die for the people' in mind, we continued the experiments." Now, Wang said, after a year's treatment, 90 percent of the students at the school have a certain capacity for hearing.

"After hearing is recovered, we teach them how to speak. In little more than a year, 11 of our 238 students have been completely cured. We can thank Chairman Mao's teaching for this."

We saw startling demonstrations of acupuncture in Hankow, where we were invited to observe some major operations in which needles would be used as the sole anesthetic - another development attributed to the inspiration of Mao. We watched both open-heart surgery and the removal of a tumor from the throat of a 54-year-old woman. It was true - the only anesthetic we saw used was acupuncture needles.

When the surgeon, Dr. Chu Yu-kuang, made the incision into the throat to remove the tumor, the fully conscious woman never twitched - which is more than I can say for the observers. Seconds after Dr. Chu tied the last suture, she sat up and ate mandarin orange sections. Then she rose unassisted from the operating table, thanked the surgeon and the two acupuncturists, and walked out, waving and smiling at the amazed observers. She was not even pale.

Professor Chu Fa-tzu, head of the surgical department, explained to us that thirty minutes before the operation, two needles had been inserted into the nerve points of each wrist, numbing the tumor area. Throughout the operation, the acupuncturists kept twisting the needles; the moment it was over, they withdrew them.

For the heart surgery, in addition to the needles in the wrists, a needle was placed in each forearm. The chest was opened, a rib and some tissue removed, and the rapidly beating heart exposed. The woman patient remained fully conscious, and while the surgeon cupped her heart in his hand, she drank orange juice through a straw and smiled at observers. We almost passed out.

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