Even if you've never heard of Dr. Michael DeBakey, chances are you or someone you know has been touched by his work. To list the 95 year old, world renowned heart surgeon's accomplishments would take pages, but let's just say artificial hearts and heart transplants are only common today because of him.
At 95 years young, you'd think Debakey would be enjoying his retirement by now. But there's something about him that drives him to continue innovating miracles. "When we can help people and restore them back to life, that's very satisfying and that stimulates you to even do more if you can."
Dr. Debakey is a pioneer in the field of Cardiovascular Surgery. He's credited with inventing the artificial heart, heart transplant procedures, and many other medical breakthroughs. His latest accomplishment... a new artificial heart the size of a C battery. That's much smaller than it's predecessor which is the size of a cantaloupe. Debakey says, "It can replace as much as the heart does and provide enough supplementation to the heart function that you can lead a normal life."
Though he's a legend in his time, Dr. Debakey is nothing but humble. Everybody here that listened to him speak at Covenant Medical Center on Friday, was in complete awe to be in the presence of greatness. Of them, DeBakey says, "I'm very appreciative of the hospitality everyone here has shown me. That's all I can say in that regard. I'm thankful."
Those who have the privilege of knowing Dr. DeBakey are thankful too. Dr. Robert Salem, Chief Medical Officer at Covenant Medical Center, says "He's the most incredible human being I've ever known; not only from a technical point of view but his work ethic, the hard schedule he has every day all over the world and he still performs at the highest level."
Dr. DeBakey has had some pretty famous patients around the world. He treated Russian President Boris Yeltsen for heart failure and performed heart transplant surgery on NASA Engineer David Saucier. That encounter actually led to his new artificial heart invention. It was partly NASA's technology that led to the innovation. That technology has been tested on patients in the US and in Europe. DeBakey hopes it will gain final FDA approval by the end of the year.