The "instruments of life" were likely an embodiment of Alessandro Volta's invention, the battery. Thus, Victor did not have to wait for a stormy night to charge up his creation, rather, he simply put together a stack of metals and wet paper, and stuck it to the mass of sewn up body parts on the table.
In Mary's time the state of death was not all together clearly defined. Given numerous instances of drowned people coming back to life, the only sure definition of death involved the smell of decay ... putrefaction. If you think about it, we haven't come that far along since then. We do recognize that a heart which ceases to function is not enough...we then look at the brain. However, the lack of brain activity is not always a definitive marker. There are examples of people with little or no activity rejoining the living. In fact, studies have been done with cat brains soaked in glycerol which were kept frozen for years that have resumed electrical brain activity after thawing. Perhaps, putrefaction is really a best endpoint.
Of course, Mary was not quite aware of the problems with tissue rejection that Frankie would experience. She was also not aware of the viability of organs after their blood supply was cut off. At room temperature, most organs will survive for about 6-72 hours, which is quite impressive. There is one major organ that has a rather short survival time, and that is the brain. It is accepted that brain damage begins to occur about 4-5 minutes after oxygen is cut off, and that the hippocampus can survive for only 10 minutes. Thus, the surgeon in Mary's time would need to work extremely fast.
Transplant surgery continues to improve in the modern era, and can handle most organs. Head transplants in animal models did actually work (for a day or two) in experiments conducted years ago. In fact, Dr. Robert White (1970s) offered his services to transplant the heads of actor Christopher Reeve and scientist Stephen Hawking. Both refused. Regardless, a Dr. Canavero is planning such a transplant sometime soon. The future is now.