Knitted vascular graft

Production date
1957
Country
Australia
State/Province
Queensland

Description
A Y-shaped warp-knitted silk object knitted in two sections which are stitched at side seams. The letters S.A.M. are embroidered in red thread at bottom of Y.
Classification
CH classification SCIENCES Instruments Medical
Measurements
Length 210mm x Width 38mm
Media/Materials description
Silk
Signature/Marks
S.A.M.
History and use
The Sam Mellick collection consists of a numberof significant scientific and historic objects relating to the origins and development of vascular surgery in Australia which were donated by pioneering vascular surgeon, Dr Selim (Sam) Mellick, CBE MBBS FRCS FRACS FACS FRCSI (Hon). Sam, who passed away in 2019 at the age of 93, and was widely considered to be the 'father’ of Australian vascular surgery.

In 1956, Sam became one of the first surgeons employed at the Princess Alexandra Hospital where he commenced specialising in aortic vascular surgery on patients with aortic aneurysm - an abnormal bulge that occurs in the wall of the major blood vessel (aorta) that carries blood from the heart to your body. Synthetic vascular grafts are considered in peripheral, aortic, and vascular surgeries.

The purpose of the synthetic graft is to improve the blood flow to the heart and from the heart to other areas in patients with clogged or damaged arteries, veins, and capillaries. Sam’s early work coincided with a period when this type of surgery was little known in Australia and Government funding was not available to purchase arterial graft material which, at the time, was very expensive and only available in the United States.

Undeterred, Sam decided to make his own with help from his wife Pat. After measuring the arteries of cadavers in the autopsy room, he then translated these into diagrams on pieces of brown paper ‘like a seamstress making a pattern’. The first grafts were made from nylon shirting material purchased from well-known Brisbane shirt manufacturer, Harry Guinsberg. In 1959, Sam performed the first carotid artery surgery in Queensland. (Queensland Museum’s Social History collection includes nine shirts made by Harry Guinsberg which were among a large number of objects donated by Sam’s sister, Thelma.)

Included in this collection are four aortic vascular grafts made by Dr Mellick’s wife, Pat, on her Singer sewing machine; a home-made vascular shunt; two samples of modern synthetic grafts; and a hand-knitted aortic vascular graft embroidered with Dr Mellick’s initials. Personal items include Dr Mellick’s staff identification badge and a handmade embroidered cloth presented to him by staff at the Princess Alexandra Hospital where he commenced work in 1956 in what is now the largest vascular unit in Australia, named in his honour.

During a 2018 interview, Dr Mellick explained that the grafts sewn by Pat Mellick in the kitchen of their Ascot home were the only remaining examples of his pioneering attempts to introduce vascular/aortic grafting technologies into his own practice and to other hospital staff. Likewise, Dr Mellick’s staff identification badge and hand-embroidered gift from a medical colleague are unique mementos of his lifelong connection and service to Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Dr Sam Mellick’s collection is not only important in terms of its ability to document his remarkable life and pioneering achievments in the development of a life-saving medical technology, but substantially augments Queensland Museum’s small but growing collection of objects documenting the Mellick family’s history, achievements and contribution to Queensland since their arrival and settlement in 1900.
Associated person

Country

State/Province

Category

Share