Boomers Witnessed History in August of 1968

Boomers Witnessed History in August of 1968

Where were you in August of 1968? Fifty years ago, it seemed like the whole world was in upheaval. There were many more plane crashes than occur today, massive floods from summer monsoons were ravaging India and at least two earthquakes occurred in Asia. Anyone who lived through that month and year will surely recall that they were witnessing history in our country, too. Here are a few of the momentous happenings that affected our lives a half century ago:

• Former Vice President Richard Nixon received the nomination for the Republican Party’s candidate for President in Miami Beach (August 6). He chose Spiro Agnew as his running mate for Vice President the next day. He went on to win the election in November of that year and became the 37th President.

• The Soviet Union agreed to begin talks about arms limitation on antiballistic missiles (August 10). Discussions did not include nuclear warheads, but paved the way for the 1972 ABM Treaty.

• Phase III of the Tet Offensive was launched by the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong (August 17). The massive attacks on 27 Vietnamese cities would go on until late September.

• Mia Farrow divorced Frank Sinatra (August 17). This was big news on the entertainment front.

• Tanks and troops from the Soviet Union, Poland, East Germany and Hungary invaded Czechoslovakia (August 20).

• Photographs by Alfred Eisenstaedt were featured in an essay in Life magazine (August 23). Entitled, “Blighted Great Lakes,” it raised the country’s awareness to the dangers of pollution by illustrating the extent that water pollution was having on the Great Lakes system. It eventually led to the passing of The Clean Water Act in 1972.

Hey Jude was released by The Beatles on Apple Records, the first single on their new label (August 26). It became the best-selling single of 1968.

• Senator Hubert Humphrey from Minnesota became the Democratic Party’s candidate for President (August 28). Edmund Muskie would be his running mate for Vice President. And, of course, we all remember the protests and police response surrounding the convention in Chicago from all the television coverage.

• William Talman died (August 30). He was the actor who portrayed the prosecuting attorney who went up against Perry Mason each week. Mister B mentions him here because he died of lung cancer. He was the first person to record a commercial for the American Cancer Society warning others of the dangers of smoking, only six weeks before his death. This spawned the “from the grave” testimonial genre that continues to be aired in cancer commercials today.

Mister Boomer was a teenager in high school in 1968. He was having trouble processing everything that was happening that year, between the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy a few months earlier, then the political conventions in August. As a result, 1968 was probably the year he became politically aware. It seemed like every day something monumental was occurring, not the least of which was the looming specter of Vietnam for Mister B and his classmates, just a couple of years shy of registering for the Draft. Mister B found that music was a great place to turn to for refuge and a little clarity. Music from that time was highly creative, reflecting both the tumultuous times and the pangs of growing up and falling in love. It’s like the Boomer Generation lost its innocence that year, because we had a front-row seat to history.

What do you remember about August of 1968, boomers?

Boomers Watched as Transplants Saved Lives

The list of technological, engineering and medical marvels that were introduced during the Boomer Years is truly incredible. We bore witness to true history in the making. A case in point is human organ transplants. It was a subject hardly on the radar of boomers and their parents after the war, yet by the end of the Baby Boom, advances in procedures and treatments were in the headlines.

Human skin grafting experiments were conducted as far back as the 16th century, but experiments in animal and human organ transplants didn’t begin until the 18th century. It took until the mid-twentieth century for breakthroughs that resulted in the first successful transplants.

During WWII, the U.S. Navy saw a great need for donated tissue. Beginning in the early 1800s, tissue grafting was generally accomplished by transferring a portion of skin tissue from one part of the body to another. Battle wounds and ship fires didn’t always allow for that contingency, so in 1949, the Navy established the first tissue bank. But organ transplants were a different story.

The heyday of medical breakthroughs for organ transplants came in the 1950s and ’60s:

• 1954 saw the first successful kidney transplant
• 1963, the first liver and lung transplants
• 1966, the first successful pancreas transplant

In 1967, the world watched and held its collective breath as Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful heart transplant in South Africa, though the patient ultimately lived only another 18 days. Coverage of the operation was akin to that of a space launch, with boomer families becoming familiar with all the involved parties before, during and after the historic operation. For the first time, there was a ray of hope for chronically ill heart patients. The first U.S. heart transplant followed one month later, in January of 1968. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. heart transplant, boomers.

As can be expected, the reaction around the country ran the spectrum from excitement at the scientific breakthroughs to condemnation that doctors were “playing God.” Boomers and their families watched as the drama unfolded.

In the 1970s, the discovery of immunosuppressant drugs — in particular, Cyclosporine in 1978 — greatly assisted in stopping patients’ bodies from rejecting transplanted organs, extending life.

As the legal, moral and ethical questions of human organ transplanting became more contentious, Congress passed the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act in 1968. The bill was meant to clarify and supplant the various laws that had cropped up on the state level. It permitted any adult to become an organ donor, and, in lieu of a will, any deceased person’s surviving spouse or remaining relative to make that choice. The bill covered the donation of organs, tissue and eyes. All states adopted the original version. It was amended in 1984, at which time the buying and selling of human organs was banned; then again in 1987 and 2006 to streamline the process of donating to address the growing needs for human transplants.

It seems quite remarkable to Mister Boomer that as a generation we watched human organ transplants begin at an experimental stage to where we are today. That is not to say the operations don’t carry a high risk or that they have become routine, but from the trickle of transplants that began in the 1950s, today we see more than 30,000 organ transplants per year.

Traditionally, especially during the Boomer Years, organ donations came from deceased individuals. In 2001, however, for the first time living donors exceeded that of deceased donors. The U.S. allows for living donations of one kidney, one or two lobes of the liver, a lung or part of a lung, part of the pancreas, or part of the intestines.

Transplants are indeed extending and saving lives, and boomers watched its progress happen in real time. The demand for organs to transplant is continuing to increase as the number of donors lags behind. Many states, such as Mister Boomer’s state, make the donation of vital organs after death as easy as a checkbox on a driver’s license renewal form. Mister B urges every boomer to take a look at what the process is in your state.

Did you know anyone who had a transplant during your boomer years? Are you listed to become a donor now, boomers?