Dr. Michael DeBakey's Long and Productive Life

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2008-7-22
This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Michael DeBakey performed more than sixty thousand operations during his long career as a heart surgeon.

His patients included

American presidents John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. They also included Russian president Boris Yeltsin and the Shah of Iran.

Doctor DeBakey died July eleventh in Houston, Texas, two months' short of his one hundredth birthday.

As a medical student in nineteen thirty-one, he invented the roller pump. Years later it would be used for blood transfusions during heart operations.

The roller pump became a major part of the heart-lung machine. The machine pumps oxygen-rich blood to the brain and other organs so doctors can operate on the heart.

Michael DeBakey was a pioneer of open heart surgery, which has saved countless lives. The name means that the chest is open and surgery is performed on the heart. Doctors may or may not open the heart itself as well.

Michael DeBakey was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on September seventh, nineteen hundred and eight. His parents were Lebanese immigrants.

He was always a good student. He loved to learn. As a child his mother taught him to sew. This proved helpful years later when he sewed polyester tubes into patients to perform heart bypass operations.

He developed a way to replace or repair blood vessels with Dacron, a stretchy manmade material. He continued to improve on the process. Today the DeBakey artificial graft is used around the world.

He was also a pioneer in artificial hearts, heart transplants and recording surgeries on film. He revolutionized medicine in the nineteen fifties and sixties.

During World War Two he helped develop the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, or MASH.

Michael DeBakey earned his medical degree in nineteen thirty-two from Tulane University in New Orleans.

For years he led the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He joined the faculty in nineteen forty-eight when the school was still part of Baylor University.

He became president of the medical college and supervised its separation from the university in nineteen sixty-nine.

Over the years he received many awards. In April, he received Congress' highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal.

Michael DeBakey continued his work until his death. He received a hero's burial last Friday at Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. I'm Pat Bodnar.

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