- The old General Motors Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. USA

Remember When General Motors Could Do Anything...Pepperidge Farm Remembers

The Human Heart That General Motors Built

11w ago

“I do not fear failure. I only fear the ‘slowing up’ of the engine inside of me which is pounding, saying, ‘Keep going, someone must be on top, why not you?’”

General George S. Patton

The worlds first successful open heart procedure was performed here in Detroit at Harper Hospital in 1952. A more than capable surgeon, Dr. Forest Dewey Dodrill knew that while he possessed the skills necessary to perform this life saving procedure he sorely lacked the necessary tools. He began to create very rudimentary designs for what would become the world’s first mechanical human heart pump. But, soon it was evident to Dr. Dodrill that he was more surgeon than mechanical engineer and help was needed. In Dr. Dodrill’s eyes, the only organization that had the engineering skills and access to cutting edge technology was Detroit’s own General Motors. Dr. Dodrill presented his conceptual designs to a few General Motors engineers and asked if they would be so kind as to take the baton and run with his vision. The research and design department of General Motors was more than happy to try their hands at what would become ground breaking collaboration between medicine and manufacturing.

Photo AHA Journals

Photo AHA Journals

A number of months later, Dr. Dodrill was finally presented with what would be named the Dodrill-GMR (General Motors Research) mechanical heart. Designed to reroute blood around the heart, allowing doctors to repair damaged valves, the mechanical pump more than resembled a chrome V-12 Cadillac engine in miniature. In principal the mechanical heart pump actually worked almost exactly like an automobile engine, with miniature chrome pistons, valves, intake and outtake manifolds all pumping blood instead of gasoline.

Photo Business News

Photo Business News

Alas, the surgery was a success and Dr. Dodrill captured national headlines for it and heart surgery would never be the same. The Dodrill-GMR Heart created an important opportunity for the advances of cardiac surgery, including bypass of narrowed coronary arteries, repair or replacement of damaged heart valves, and repair of congenital heart defects. Today the same Dodrill-GMR heart pump used by Dr. Dodrill for that history making operation is on permanent display in the lobby of The Detroit Medical Center’s Harper Hospital.

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