Heart of the matter: Famous medical feud leads to story of anger, reconciliation

Episode 2 of 'Mismatch' season 2 is now available

The first completely artificial heart implanted into a human being, the Liotta-Cooley heart, is shown. It was developed by Dr. Domingo Liotta and implanted by Dr. Denton Cooley in April 1969 and it supported a 47-year-old patient for nearly three days. (Getty Images)

All stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. But not all stories are always told in that order.

Let’s rewind for a moment to 1951, which is when Dr. Michael DeBakey hired Dr. Denton Cooley as a surgeon at the Baylor College of Medicine. At the time, open heart surgery was just getting started. The pair became fast friends and DeBakey even went on to mentor Cooley.

Now fast-forward to 2007, and we’ll paint you a new picture: This time, of an aging DeBakey at his home, recovering from a risky aneurysm surgery. Cooley, moved by the thought of the old medical lion reaching the end of his prolific life, thinks back on his own hiring and partnering with DeBakey, and how their relationship had gone off the rails. Cooley drives to DeBakey’s house in hopes of making amends before DeBakey dies. And DeBakey won’t even come to the door. Maybe he couldn’t. Maybe he wouldn’t.

DeBakey’s wife was the one who answered the door that day. And she left Cooley standing there -- out front, no invitation to step inside -- for about 20 minutes before ultimately denying his request.

What transpired between all that, you’ll have to find out in “Mismatch,” season two, episode two.

Have you heard of “Mismatch”? It’s a podcast from Graham Media that’s practically guaranteed to captivate you, once you give it a listen. Each episode starts with a brand-new story, so you can jump in whenever -- you won't be scratching your head if you missed last season or last week's episode (but hey, while we're on the topic, it's worth a mention that all these episodes are worth your time!).  The podcast is based on the idea that some of the most compelling stories feature some element of a mismatch: people who don't line up with each other or with their circumstances.

Of course, getting back to this week’s episode, "Dueling Doctors," the title gives it away a bit, alluding to a feud, which is, in fact, considered by some to be the most famous feud in the history of medicine. Cooley and DeBakey were very well-known doctors, whose relationship even inspired a series in the early 1960s called “Ben Casey.” The main difference being, the doctors on TV found a way to get along. These guys just couldn’t do it.

So yes, some of these details might ring a bell. It was Cooley who, on April 4, 1969, took an artificial heart from DeBakey’s lab and implanted it in a patient. Even if you think you're familiar with this story, there's still a lot of context within the episode. We won't give away the "middle" -- that's why you need to listen.

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And no worries: Even if you don’t follow all the latest health news, or you don’t consider yourself much of a "science-type," fear not. Host Roger Weber transcends all of that, cutting right to the heart of the story and keeping the medical jargon to a minimum.

At the end of the day, this is a tale about competition, a secret alliance, an act of betrayal, and ultimately, one big “what-if,” all unfolding between two of the most prominent surgeons the world had ever seen. And then you’ll learn, that last-ditch effort by Cooley at DeBakey’s doorstep would not be the pair’s final interaction, or attempted interaction, in Cooley’s case.

What transpires next, with DeBakey in his wheelchair and Cooley sitting across from him, will have you reaching for a tissue.

Dr. Michael DeBakey is at left (photo copyright Getty Images) and Dr. Denton Cooley is on the right (photo provided to KPRC by Texas Children's Hospital).

Intrigued? Next time you're in the car, at the gym or just hanging out at home, give it a listen. You can stream this any time, anywhere.

Editor's note: Podcasts, by the way, are really easy to access -- even if you’re not very tech-savvy. Don’t let the word throw you off. Though podcasting is a new technology, it revives an old art form: pure storytelling.

Let’s say you’ve never listened to a podcast before. Just go to our website, hit “play” on the episode of your choosing, and it’s as simple as that. iPhones even come with a Podcast app where you can subscribe, and if you own an Android, you can download an app -- Stitcher is a good one -- to accomplish the same thing.

Watch for new "Mismatch" episodes from Graham Media dropping every Thursday.


Learn more:

What's episode one all about?

Meet your host, veteran TV reporter Roger Weber


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