Readers’ Reactions to Vivien Thomas’s Legacy

Guest BloggerAt LEE & LOW BOOKS, we know the power of a good story. Our books encourage readers to pursue their dreams, seek out information on people and cultures that are different from our own, and inspire change for the better. In this guest post, Gwendolyn Hooks, author of Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas, shares some heartwarming readers’ reactions to her book. 

The night I first heard about Vivien Thomas, I had no idea I would write a book for young readers that would touch people’s hearts of all ages. I knew he led an amazing life. His surgical technique saved a life in 1944 that paved the way for thousands of children to survive today. We can look back and say, “Ahh, it all began with Vivien.”

I also had no idea, readers would step out of their busy day to connect with me. Some are apologetic, “I hope I’m not bothering you . . .” I want to shout, “Of course not! I love hearing from you.”

A California reader wrote about noticing Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas in his local library. He was so moved by the story, he sent me three copies to autograph. One was for himself, another for his friend who is an emergency room doctor, and the third for another friend’s daughter who is a first-year teacher.

His generosity was so unexpected. To like a book is one thing, but to stop your daily activities to buy three copies, mail them to me, and send them to others is a wonderful tribute to Vivien Thomas. My wish is they all find Vivien’s story one of encouragement despite the odds.

tiny stitches spread

Another California reader realized her late father was a surgical resident during Vivien’s tenure at Johns Hopkins. She asked her mother if he had ever mentioned Vivien. Her mother enthusiastically said yes! He talked about him all the time, noting how generous he was with his knowledge. Vivien took the time to explain until the listener completely understood the concept.

Donna Borgerding is a librarian from my home state of Oklahoma. Her story left me in tears.

I read your book yesterday. It is a wonderful book, but as I read it I was struck by the fact that because of Vivien Thomas’ work, my daughter is alive today. She is twenty-six and a healthy young woman working in her chosen field in Washington, DC. But she was born with a very rare heart defect. Because of this defect she had open heart surgery at Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City when she was nine months old. Though she did not have the defects for which Thomas’ procedure was developed, she nonetheless benefited from it. I sat at the desk in the children’s department weeping as I read your book. Thank you for researching and writing it. Just as we may never know how many children Vivien Thomas’ procedure has saved, you may never know how many lives your book will reach. I just want you to know this mom down the road from you in Norman, Oklahoma is grateful for both of you.

I am grateful for Vivien’s perseverance, all the encouragement I had on my writing journey, and all the readers who were touched by his story.

About Gwendolyn Hooks

gwendolyn hooksGwendolyn Hooks was born in Savannah, Georgia. Her father was in the Air Force, so Gwen and her family moved a lot when she was a child. Her first stop in every new city was the local library where she got her new library card. Gwendolyn is the author of many books, including Bebop Books’ Can I Have a Pet? and Lee & Low’s Tiny Stitches. Gwen now lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with her husband and their three children. Visit her online at


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