On this day in 1689, Spanish explorer and governor Alonso De León, marching from Coahuila in response to news of a French settlement in Texas, crossed a river in what is now Dimmit or Zavala County which he named Río de las Nueces ("River of Nuts") for the pecan trees growing along its banks. The Nueces River, although not explored in its entirety until the eighteenth century, was the first Texas river to be given a prominent place on European maps. It is identifiable as the Río Escondido ("Hidden River"), which first appeared on a 1527 map attributed to Diogo Ribeiro, signifying the obscure location of the river mouth behind its barrier island. It was to this river that René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle--confused by the period's inadequate maps--sailed in 1685, believing that it was the Mississippi. De León discovered the remains of La Salle's Fort St. Louis on Garcitas Creek eighteen days after crossing the Nueces.
On this day in 1836, Sarah Ann Horn was captured by Comanche Indians near the Nueces River. Her family was traveling from the failed Dolores settlement, in Beales's Rio Grande colony, hoping to reach the port of Matamoros. The Comanches killed several men, including John Horn, Sarah's husband. After capture, Sarah was separated from her children. In 1837 American traders ransomed her at a trading rendezvous in New Mexico. She moved in 1838 to Missouri, where writer E. House recorded her account of her captivity, published the following year as A Narrative of the Captivity of Mrs. Horn, and Her Two Children. Sarah Horn died in 1839 from injuries sustained during her captivity.
On this day in 1969, Dr. Denton Cooley implanted the first complete artificial heart in a human being. The device, developed at Cooley's Cullen Cardiovascular Laboratories in Houston, kept the patient, Haskell Karp, alive for sixty-four hours, until a suitable heart donor was found. Karp died thirty-two hours after receiving a new human heart, from pneumonia and renal failure, but his experience proved the viability of the artificial heart as a temporary measure. That first artificial heart is now in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Two Houston surgeons, Cooley and Michael E. DeBakey, pioneered heart transplant techniques. The development of the artificial heart dates to the early 1960s, when Domingo Liotta began research at DeBakey's Baylor laboratories in Houston. DeBakey and his team performed the first successful coronary artery bypass graft procedure in November 1964. Cooley and his associates at St. Luke's Hospital in Houston performed the first heart transplant in the U.S. in May 1968. In August of that year DeBakey and his team performed the first simultaneous multi-organ transplant. Despite such advances, cardiac transplantation initially had limited therapeutic success. DeBakey and Cooley reported that sixty of the first 100 heart transplant recipients died by the eighth day following surgery. Today, heart transplantation is no longer considered an experimental procedure; approximately 2,200 heart transplants were performed in 2000.