Denton Cooley, the first surgeon, to perform a heart transplant in the United States passed away on Friday at his house in Texas, surrounded by his family member. The eminent surgeon, who over the years has earned national and international awards was 96 years old and died of natural causes.
Doctor Denton Cooley was born in 1920, in Texas. Inspired by his father, a renowned and wealthy dentist, young Denton Cooley graduated the University of Texas in 1941. After just three years, the soon to be an eminent doctor would earn his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
A year after earning his medical degree, Denton Cooley assisted Alfred Blalock, another heart surgeon, in performing surgery on an infant who had a congenital heart defect. This case will go down in history and would pave the way for modern heart surgery.
It wasn’t until Denton Cooley was appointed surgical instructor under Doctor DeBakey that he began to earn a name for himself. In the early ’60s, Denton Cooley and others founded the Texas Heart Institute, after spending more than a decade performing heart surgery on children with congenital defects.
During his career, Dr. Denton Cooley developed many surgical techniques aimed at replacing defective heart valves and even pioneered a technique which is still used today to mend aorta aneurysms.
However, Dr. Cooley earned his reputation as a heart surgeon in May 1968, when he and a team of surgeons performed the first successful heart transplant on US soil. The recipient of a transplant was a 47-years old accountant. During the long and strenuous operation, Cooley and his team managed to sew a 15-year old’s heart into the accountant’s chest.
Unfortunately, the patient lived only seven months after the heart transplant. In 1969, Cooley and his team performed another unique medical intervention – the first artificial heart transplant. The recipient of this new type of transplant was a 47-years old woman.
According to the case files, the artificial heart was only a temporary solution, until Cooley and his team could find a replacement. The woman survived on the artificial heart for 65 hours before she received a new heart.
Unfortunately, a day and a half later, the woman passed away due to pneumonia.
For his innumerable achievements during his career, Denton Cooley received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1984.
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