Wilfred Bigelow

Obituary of Wilfred Bigelow

BIGELOW, Wilfred Gordon - After a life lived with caring, intellectual curiosity and a profound sense of spirituality, Bill died peacefully in Toronto on Easter Sunday 2005. Born in Brandon, Manitoba, Bill was the son of Dr. Wilfred Bigelow, founder of the first medical clinic in Canada, and Grace Gordon, nurse and midwife. He was raised in an environment that encouraged a love of family, nature, music and education. Bill attended Brandon College in the early 1930�s and graduated from medicine at the University of Toronto in 1938. Following this, he served overseas as a Captain in the Royal Canadian Medical Army Corps, performing battle surgery on the frontlines. Returning home from the war, he furthered his studies at John Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland specializing in cardiac surgery. His experiences in the war with amputations due to frostbite led him to explore the principle of hypothermia. He felt strongly that to make progress in cardiac surgery, surgeons needed to open the heart and operate directly. Building on his wartime experiences, he theorized that if you could cool the heart, you could reduce oxygen requirements, interrupt circulation and open the heart. In 1947, Bill returned to Toronto, and established a hypothermia research unit at The Banting Institute. There, he performed the world�s first open heart surgery on a dog using the principal of hypothermia, paving the way for its use on humans. At his lab, Dr. Bigelow and his colleagues Dr. John Callaghan and Dr. John Hopps also developed the cardiac pacemaker. Bill was recognized internationally as the father of Canadian heart surgery. He received the Gairdner Foundation Award in 1959, was inducted into the Canadian Medical Association�s Hall of Fame in 1997 and into the Order of Canada in 1981. Bill published numerous medical articles in scientific journals, educated aspiring cardiac surgeons from around the world, and authored two books, Cold Hearts and Mysterious Heparin. Along with his passion for medicine, Bill will be remembered for his love of the outdoors and his work on environmental causes. He served as a director of the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. He spent many happy hours on the islands of Georgian Bay, and at his farm in Collingwood with his beloved family, horses and dogs. He was an avid bird watcher who went on frequent field trips with his longtime friend Dr. Bruce Charles. In his latter years, he enjoyed many happy hours with his golf buddies at the Toronto Hunt Club. First and foremost, Bill was a family man and a devoted and loyal friend to many. He was predeceased by his beloved wife of almost 60 years, Ruth Jennings, who attracted his attention as a caring and efficient operating nurse at Toronto General Hospital. He was also predeceased by his infant brother Jack, and his sisters Mary Grant (Millard), and Toody McKinnon (Keith). He is survived by his brother Dr. Dan Bigelow and his wife Dr. Sonia Saceda. As a loving father and grandfather, Bill led by example, demonstrating the importance of loyalty and the power of positive thinking and perseverance. He will be deeply missed by his daughter Pixie Bigelow Currie (Ian) of Toronto, and sons, John (Ellie) of Honolulu, Hawaii, Dan (Blanche) of Petersfield, Manitoba, and Bill of Toronto. He is remembered with affection by his grandchildren Scott Currie (Sarah), Susanne Coutts (Rob), Mathew Bigelow, and Angela Beatton (Don) and his nieces, nephews and their families. Bill adored children and was delighted with the birth of his three great grandchildren, Sophie and Chloe Coutts and Stella Currie. The family recognizes with gratitude his caregivers Alma Ablona, Beth Lara and Helen Ablona and the staff of Belmont House. The funeral and interment will be private. A memorial service will be held at Rosedale United Church on Saturday, April 23, 2005 at 2:00 p.m. Donations in his memory may be made to establish The Bigelow Lectureship, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, The Banting Institute, 100 College St., Room 311, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1L5, telephone (416)-978-5148; or to continue The Bigelow Book Prize, Cardiovascular Sciences Collaborative Program, 150 College St., Room 83D, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3E2, telephone (416) 978-7744. .