Cardiac surgery was revolutionized on November 29, 1944, when Eileen Saxon underwent the first systemic-to-pulmonary artery shunt at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America. The systemic-to-pulmonary artery shunt was initially developed in the laboratory and then applied to patients through the unique collaboration of Vivien Thomas, Alfred Blalock, and Helen B. Taussig. This innovation was the first operation to successfully treat cyanotic cardiac disease. The history of the first operation to successfully treat cyanotic heart disease is an extraordinary history of courage, innovation, and scientific breakthrough. Just as striking is perhaps the ability of the protagonists of this story to overcome seemingly insurmountable barriers of racial and gender discrimination and revolutionize medicine.