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Dr. Michael DeBakey's Long and Productive Life

The surgeon was a pioneer in open heart surgery, artificial hearts and heart transplants. He worked up until his death this month in Houston, at age 99. Transcript of radio broadcast:

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 supervised its separation from Baylor University in nineteen sixty-nine.

Over the years he received many awards.

One life he helped save was his own. Two years ago he had a damaged aorta, which carries blood from the heart to the body. Surgeons repaired it with an operation he developed long ago.

Michael DeBakey continued to work until his death. He received a hero's burial last Friday at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington.

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