Michael DeBakey started life on September 7, 1908 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He studied at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana and received his B.S. in 1930, his M.D. in 1932, and his M.S. in 1935.
Early on, he showed real genius. Before he had even obtained his M.S., DeBakey invented a special pump that is a vital part of the heart-lung machine, a machine that makes open-heart surgery possible by doing the job of the lungs and heart while surgery is being performed. He also devised a system for fixing aortas. Debakey was on the first surgeons to use what is known as the Dacron graft to repair and replace blood vessels.
The next notable figure, Raymond de Vieussens, was a French anatomist. He was the first to describe the anatomy, or the structure of the heart, its chambers and vessels. In 1705, Vieussens wrote the Vessels of the Human Body, which is a classic study and resource material in the history of cardiology. In 1733, Stephen Hales, a true scholar in a variety of academic disciplines was an English man of the cloth, who made his contribution to cardiology by being the first to measure blood pressure.
Nearly a century later, in 1816, Rene Theophile-Hyacinth Laennec was able to make the stethoscope, a new invention, while examining chest conditions of his patients in the French Hospital where he worked. In 1903, the Dutch physiologist, Willem Einthoven invented the first pragmatically usable electrocardiogram, also known as ECG or EKG. Decades later Einthoven received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his contribution to cardiology. The first major American contribution to cardiology was made by James B. Herrick in 1912. He was the first to describe that hardened arteries can lead to heart disease. Herrick is also credited for describing sickle-cell disease.
A true breakthrough in cardiology was made in 1938 when Robert E. Gross performed the first heart surgery. Gross, an American surgeon, was able to save the lives of infants and young children suffering from blue babies condition through surgery. Ten years later, Gross performed the first artery graft surgery, thereby making giant leaps in medicine.
John Gibbons invented what we now call the Heart Lung Machine. This invention allows a surgeon to keep blood oxygenated and moving through patient during surgery. Dr. Gibbon’s machine was refined using dogs as test subjects. In 1953 Cecelia Bavolek, became the first successful recipient of a heart bypass surgery, using Dr. Gibbon’s machine. This breakthrough opened the door for safer heart-valve repair and transplantation surgeries take place.
During this time, he met Michael E DeBakey and they developed a way to remove aortic aneurysms. He performed bloodless surgeries for Jehovah’s Witnesses during the 1960’s. He and his team developed new artificial heart valves which helped to drop mortality rates for heart valve transplant surgery from 70% all the way to 8%.
He performed the first successful artificial heart transplant in 1969. The man lived for over 2 days with this artificial heart beating inside of him. This operation was the start of a 40 year feud between DeBakey and Cooley. Debakey was to perform the surgery, however was delayed by a speaking engagement. Cooley went ahead and performed the surgery without authorization and stole this significant event from DeBakey.
Another miraculous breakthrough in cardiology and medicine was made in 1967 by a South African surgeon, Chrstiaan Neethling Barnard. Barnard was able to, for the first time in history, perform a whole human to human heart transplant. This gave new hope to patients with even end stage heart failures or extremely serious coronary artery diseases.
What can be considered a final breakthrough in cardiology began with Robert Jarvik, an American scientist and researcher. His invention of the artificial heart will later make the organic human heart completely replaceable, rendering virtually any heart disease treatable. In 1982, American surgeon Willem DeVries successfully performed the first total artificial heart transplant. DeVries used the Jarvik-7 model, obviously named after its inventor, for this groundbreaking surgery.
Many miraculous strides have been made throughout history by brilliant minds. Without the contributions made by the aforementioned and not mentioned inventors, researchers, scholars and doctors dedicated themselves to study the human heart to the point of creating a new heart that can be replaced if our nature made default one fails. Let us not forget, that without their contribution, many of our ancestors and, yes, naturally many of us may not be alive today or even have ever been born.
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