F. Mason Sones, MD (1918–1985) | SCAI

Mrs. Patricia Wheat, daughter of Dr. F. Mason Sones wrote the following tribute to her father in the SCAI News & Highlights. F. Mason Sones, MD was the father of coronary angiography as well as a co-founder of the Society of Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions.



In the early morning of April 29, 2003, I found myself following a speeding ambulance on a small, two-lane highway in rural Sedona, Ariz. In the ambulance was my mother, who was on her way to the small community hospital in Cottonwood for emergency care for a heart attack. As I drove, I was remembering scenes from my childhood, and attempting to figure out how to get my mother stabilized, air-evacuated to a large urban hospital in Phoenix, further stabilized, and then “home” to the Cleveland Clinic for treatment.

My father, Dr. F. Mason Sones, Jr., developer of the technique called coronary angiography, was a man, small in stature, who was larger than life in person. My earliest memories are of playing in the corridors of the B-10 Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory of the Cleveland Clinic on weekends while my father reviewed films of patients. That early laboratory was small, in the basement with no windows, and very quiet on weekends...a wonderland for a small child. I marveled at the pictures of beating hearts but had no idea of their significance. Once, while watching a cardiac catheterization in the lab, I got faint and passed out. My last memory was of my father yelling at the patient. “Cough! Cough!! Cough, you b#&&*!!!.” I locked my knees trying to stay on my feet and went over like a toy soldier. When my head hit the metal floor, it sounded like a split watermelon. Coming to in the emergency room with a concussion, I found out that during a catheterization if a patient were to go into fibrillation, coughing could sometimes restore normal rhythm to the heart.

My father was a colorful man who demanded (and gave) great loyalty to those around him. His secretary, Elaine, and laboratory nurse, Lucille, were members of our family. We were constantly surrounded by visiting physicians from all over the world who came to learn from the staff at the Cleveland Clinic. His early staff members, Drs. Sheldon and Shirey were well known to me. My first job, at 15 years old, was working in the Admissions Department of the hospital and repeatedly typing, “Sones/Sheldon/Shirey” on the admissions documents of the majority of the patients. It was a long journey from those days in the small, two-building hospital to modern times, and Saudi Arabian royalty arriving at the hospital with wives, food tasters, children, and personal chefs. Wonderful to be a part of such a large legacy.

I drove, remembered, and attempted to figure out the logistics involved in getting Mother “home.” We pulled into the emergency entrance of the Verde Valley Medical Center. Dr. James Dwyer was at the door as my mother was unloaded from the ambulance and rushed into a triage room. Having seen the electrocardiogram tracings sent across the phone lines from Mother’s apartment, he was ready for action. Quick introductions...quick and thorough history...signing of permission forms...Mom on her way to the Catheterization Laboratory within 15 minutes of arrival at the medical center!!

That morning, my mother had a cardiac catheterization, angioplasty, and insertion of two stents within an hour of her arrival. I believe that my father was present in the person of Dr. James Dwyer....efficient, reassuring, and completely competent. Together my father’s techniques and Dr. Dwyer’s experience, conviction, and prompt intervention saved my mother’s life. At the very least, her quality of life has been preserved and the damage possible from a massive heart attack minimized. My father died before angioplasty and stent placement became as commonplace as they are today. He would have been so excited at the reality of preservation of heart muscle and quality of life through immediate intervention. My family and I are so grateful to this new generation of Cardiac Interventionalists like Dr. Dwyer and his associate Dr. Bruce Peek, who continue to push my father’s legacy in new and exciting directions.