Shumway Celebrates 82, Muniz Celebrates Shumway
Every February 9th, the smell of decadent Mexican food wafts throughout the Cardiothoracic Surgery department, and all gather around to listen while Dr. Norman Shumway is serenaded by Guillermo “Bill” Muniz, the man who provides the yearly feast. The celebration is twofold, a party for Shumway’s 82nd birthday and Guillermo’s annual gift to him for elongating his son’s life.
Shumway, the Frances and Charles D. Field Professor of Cardiac Surgery, Emeritus – often regarded as the father of heart transplantation – conduced the first successful human heart transplant in the United States (only the second in the world) and has made innumerable pivotal contributions towards the advancement of cardiac surgery.
In June of 1977, he, along with Dr. Craig Miller, Thelma and Henry Doelger Professor in Cardiovascular Surgery (then-Chief Resident), performed a right Blalock-Taussig shunt to repair a severe congenital heart defect in Luis Muniz - Guillermo’s then-16-year-old son. The procedure extended Luis’s life by 13 years. Ever since then, for Shumway’s birthday, Guillermo has furnished the entire department with a lavish banquet from his restaurant, the New Mecca Café, in Pittsburg, CA.
Unfortunately, in September of 1989, Shumway received a disheartening letter informing him of Luis’s relapse and death at age 29 – a death that, according to a return letter from Shumway, might possibly have been prevented. He wrote, “He did have a most complex congenital heart lesion, but it is this kind of situation where we now consider heart transplantation. … I feel somewhat chagrined that he was not brought to our attention for possible transplantation.”
Luis made the most of the time he was given. Amongst other things, he graduated from UC Davis with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, received his MBA from the University of San Francisco, and traveled throughout Europe. And, despite his death, Guillermo enthusiastically continues Shumway’s birthday tradition without fail. His graciousness brings deeper meaning to an already meaningful day. We are reminded what birthdays are really all about: the celebration of life.