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Celebrating American Inventions: The Beat Goes On

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The 4th of July celebrates the birthday of our country, and allows us to take time to reflect on life, liberty and all the other great freedoms we have living here.  As part of that celebration, this week we’re highlighting some prominent inventions that have impacted all of our lives since the founding of our country.

We’ll highlight one invention from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. We can’t cover every invention, so feel free to share other great inventions in the comments, and check back throughout the week to share how you’ve been impacted by the inventions we’ve selected.

The Artificial Heart

The human heart beats around 2.5 billion times in an average lifespan. Each day, it pumps over 2,000 gallons of blood, providing each cell in the body with fresh oxygen - without which, we cannot survive. It seems like without a heart beating in our chest, we would be toast, right? Not so fast…

Dr. David Lederman, who founded Abiomed, Inc. a year after his father died of a heart attack, didn’t quite see it that way. “There is no reason a person should die when their heart stops,” Lederman said in a 2003 interview with CBS News. “If the person’s brain and the rest of his body is in good shape, why should people die?”

With that in mind, Lederman and Abiomed, Inc. created the AbioCor, a grapefruit-sized, plastic-and-titanium artificial heart. Robert Tools became the first human recipient of a self-contained artificial heart on July 2, 2001. The company deemed it would be considered a success if Tools survived for 60 days following the procedure. He survived for 151. Before his death, his artificial heart had beat over 20 million times inside Tools.

AbioCor was named Time Magazine’s Invention of the Year for 2001 (#1 in Health category), “for saving the life of Robert Tools and changing our perception of what is possible.”

Unlike the world’s first artificial heart, the Jarvik-7, developed in the 1980s by Dr. Robert Jarvik and its modern version,the SynCardia CardioWest, the AbioCor is self-contained, meaning it isn’t connected to external machines. And unlike its predecessors, which were created as a temporary solution for patients waiting for a human heart transplant, the AbioCor is a permanent  replacement.

Though many developments have been made in the 12 years since AbioCor’s creation, it can be traced back as the spawn of these new devices, responsible for redefining perceptions of life, and allowing humans to survive without a living heart.

Whether you’re watching fireworks or barbecuing with friends, make sure your own 4th of July celebration is safe and fun with these tips. And check the #july4 and #madeintheusa hashtags on Twitter to read about more American inventions this week.

Read this post in Spanish.