Wednesday, January 16, 2013

TMA Exhibits Pioneer Heart Surgeons’ Unique Artifacts

The Cooley Coffeepot on display at TMA's
History of Medicine Gallery
Imagine being a patient undergoing heart surgery, and its success might depend on a homemade device called the “Cooley Coffeepot.” Patients of renowned heart surgeon Denton A. Cooley, MD, in the 1950s were helped by the contraption, which now is on display at the Texas Medical Association (TMA).

Denton A Cooley, MD
For the first time, artifacts and images from the collections of Dr. Cooley and the late Michael E. DeBakey, MD, are on display in a new TMA exhibit, “Saving Hearts — Saving Lives.” The two Texas physicians are widely regarded as towering pioneers in the field of cardiovascular medicine in the last half of the 20th century.

Dr. Cooley personally selected items from his collection for TMA to display, including the Cooley Coffeepot. He designed and built the device in 1955 in Houston with materials from a local kitchen supply store. It oxygenated blood in a patient’s body while he surgically repaired the heart. It was one of the earliest heart-lung machines in the nation and the first in Texas.

Michael E. DeBakey, MD
TMA’s display also features the first artificial grafts designed for heart repair, based on Dr. DeBakey’s innovation — he made them in 1952 on his wife’s sewing machine using Dacron from a local fabric store. Early heart pacemakers, surgical tools designed by Drs. DeBakey and Cooley for their own use, and artificial devices implanted by both giants of medicine are among other notable artifacts displayed.

The “Saving Hearts — Saving Lives” exhibit also explains why Houston and the Texas Medical Center were uniquely positioned to foster medical innovation and leadership in the 20th century.

Medical knowledge in earlier times was not as reliable as today, the exhibit shows, as 100 years ago physicians were taught that touching a diseased heart would cause it to stop beating. (This is not the case.)

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