Monday, July 14, 2008

Life Saving Heart Surgeon Dies But Tony Snow Death More Newsworthy

Dr. Michael E. DeBakey died Friday night, July 11, 2008. He was 99 years old. For more than half a century, the son of Lebanese immigrants, routinely saved thousands of lives everyday, many with his own hands.

But, few know Dr. DeBakey died because Tony Snow, television and radio talking head, and White House mouthpiece died July 12, 2008. Never mind he never saved anyone's life with revolutionary medical treatment, he was, by all accounts, a really nice guy.

Dr. DeBakey gained notoriety as a cardiovascular surgeon pioneering surgical procedures that are accepted as common place today, but were miraculous when I was a kid and everyone knew his name. In 1908, when only 24 years old and still in medical school, DeBakey invented the roller pump, the part that makes heart and lung machines work. When patients are in surgery today and their heart and/or lungs must stop for repair or replacement, the body is hooked-up to the heart and lung machine that breathes and pumps blood for the patient.

Not as important as the contributions of Tony Snow, though. Tony Snow, television and radio talking head, and White House mouthpiece, who died July 12, 2008, was the first host of "Fox News Sunday" for seven years. Then he hosted 'Weekend Live with Tony Snow". Gloria Borger of US News & World Report told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Snow "could disagree with you without being disagreeable. ... So smart, so engaging. And one of his talents was listening. That's why he was such a good host of the Sunday show. He was such a good listener. And he was able to respond to you by just taking apart your argument. And he did it so well, but always with a generous nature."

Michael DeBakey always wanted to be a doctor and he was for 70 years. Retiring from his day almost always near midnight and waking everyday at 4 A.M. to go back to the work of saving lives. That earned him the additional reputation as a tireless worker and a stern task master. In his career, DeBakey performed over 60,000 heart surgeries while caring for scores of other patients at the same time.

In a lifetime of medical innovation, DeBakey contributed to the development of artificial hearts and heart pumps that sustained the lives of thousands of patients awaiting transplants. In his spare time, he helped create over 70 surgical instruments needed in the revolutionary surgeries he developed.

Let's not let that get in the way of immortalizing Tony Snow, television and radio talking head, and White House mouthpiece, who died July 12, 2008 who was hired on by the Bush administration as White House Press Secretary to replace Scott McClellan, who recently wrote a tell all book about meetings he never attended because he was only a press secretary. Snow's new job was tough. He had to stand for up to a whole hour answering questions from the American and foreign press corps.

In the 1950s, DeBakey was first to perform surgical replacement of arterial aneurysms and obstructive lesions. Later, he invented bypass pumps and connections to replace excised portions of diseased arteries. DeBakey performed the first Dacron graft, replacing part of an occluded (clogged) artery. He started working with coronary arterial bypass surgeries in the 1960s.

Shortly after Dr. Christian Barnard performed the first successful human heart transplant in South Africa, Dr. DeBakey was among the first in the US to try the procedure. The high rejection rate caused a halt to heart transplants until the anti-rejection drug, cyclosporin, was introduced in the 1980s. After a 14 year hiatus, DeBakey returned to heart transplant surgery which is now a common and successful procedure.

Among the tens on thousands of patients DeBakey treated were world leaders press secretaries only talk about. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon put themselves in DeBakeys hands. So did former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the Shah of Iran, King Hussein of Jordan, Turkish President Turgut Ozal, and Nicaraguan leader Violetta Chamorro. In the late 1990s, DeBakey actively helped create the Michael E. DeBakey Heart Institute at Hays Medical Center in Hays, Kansas which continues the work DeBakey started and still treats world leaders.

Back in Washington D.C., Tony Snow, television and radio talking head, and White House mouthpiece, who died July 12, 2008, quit his job in 2007 as White House Press Secretary when he was diagnosed with cancer.

Still working in early 2006, aged 97 years, Dr. DeBakey had surgery to repair a torn aorta using a proceedure he had developed now known as the DeBakey Procedure. Diana Cooper DeBakey, DeBakey's first wife, died after a heart attack in 1972. Her doctor husband could not save his own wife.

Dr. Michael DeBakey died Friday night, July 11, 2008 at Baylor College of Medicine and Methodist Hospital in Houston, TX which issued a statement saying that DeBakey had died of natural causes shortly after arrival at the hospital. The Heart and Vascular Center at Baylor was named in honor of Michael DeBakey, cardiovascular surgeon.

But, Tony Snow, television and radio talking head, and White House mouthpiece, who died July 12, 2008 is the subject of hundreds of thousands of remembrances while Dr. DeBakey's death and life are barely mentioned.

I mean no disrespect to Tony Snow, or his family. Mr. Snow was possibly the best press secretary the White House has ever had. He was undoubtedly a fine man who loved and cared for his family and friends. Being a nice guy does count for much in our short lives. But, respectfully, he was not a heart surgeon who saved thousands of lives. Michael DeBakey was and did.

I searched Google blogs (7-14/08, 9:40P.M.) for Michael DeBakey mentions and got 2,475 articles. I repeated the blog search for Tony Snow and got 232,703 articles. Tim Russert got 190,743.

People, get some perspective. Please. Tony Snow was a TV and radio personality, a journalist, and a press secretary. Outside of his family and friends, all this adulation smacks of idolatrous fan worship and is truly bizarre. Michael DeBakey was a heart surgeon and inventor who saved thousands of lives and will continue doing so long after his death.

DeBakey has only 2,475 entries and Tony Snow has 232,703. Is this truly what we want to celebrate? I know Mr. Snow is a better role model than the Spears sisters, but really, come on ... Dr. Michael DeBakey barely noticed?

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.


Gayle said...

I'm one of those who wrote a memorial post to Tony Snow, Indigo. In fact I wrote one post and later on I posted a video. The fact is that I knew who Tony Snow was and I admired him. I am sure I would also have admired Dr. Michael E. DeBakey too, but the fact is that I never heard of him before reading this post. My fault? Maybe. The media's fault? Well, I think they can take a share of it, but I really never heard of the man before now.

I admired Tony Snow, so the above comment isn't an apology for writing a memorial to him, it's just a fact that I didn't know anything about the good doctor.

Gayle said...

Another thought: This isn't anything new. I'm sure you remember when Mother Theresa died and Princess Diana died in a car accident. Diana's death completely overshadowed the death of Mother Theresa. As I knew who Mother Theresa was, that upset me, so I understand how you feel.

Indigo Red said...

That's precisely my point, Gayle. When I was in early college, the Polisci professor had us list ten famous generals an d ten famous doctors. We all got the generals and most of us had maybe three MDs.

I truly mean no disrespect to Tony Snow, but surely there is space for the truly great people somewhere.

Indigo Rose said...

When I went through school we actually were expected to do book reports (using real books!) on people who had made a difference in the world. We were living through a time (the 60's) when life and our experiences were expanding at an unprecedented rate.
Our reports included Madame Curie, Dr. DeBakey and so many others my children know nothing about.
I tried to teach them... to get them interested in history, but there was no interest.
My daughters remember push button to cell phones and c.d.s to ipods, but have no memory of rotary phones and 45's.
What we found and still find spectacular and awesome, they find ho-hum and everyday. Now the sex lives of rock stars fill them with wonder and so the usage of AWESOME! has changed to cover the most casual aspect of their lives.
I feel sorry for them and those who take things for granted.
An Explorer... that's a car, isn't it?

Indigo Red said...

Yeah, and so is a Navaho, Aztec, Cherokee, Winnabago, Pontiac. They are no longer Indians. Even the traditional explorer DeSoto is a car.

You're right. Awesome is commonplace when at one time it was awe inspiring as in inspiring of dumbfounded wonder. Of course, we had 'terrific' meaning 'great' when it really means 'creating terror'.

The Griper said...

i think we are forgetting something. the long term effects vs the short term effects. its men like tony snow that gets honored today but it will be men like Dr. DeBakey who will be honored in the future. it is men like Dr. DeBakey who find himself honored in history books. the tony snows won't be.