DeBakey receives Congressional Gold Medal

Renowned heart surgeon doctor Michael DeBakey received the Congressional Gold Medal today-- Congress' highest civilian honor.  DeBakey was raised and educated in Lake Charles and still maintains local connections.

President Bush spoke at the ceremony in Washington to honor DeBakey-- who pioneered such procedures as heart bypass and invented medical devices to help heart patients. The president says, "His legacy is the unlost hours with family and friends who are still with us because of his healing touch."

Dr. Debakey told those present, "Since receiving this award my cup runneth over. Thank you very much."

The famed heart surgeon received his early education right here in Lake Charles at Central school and Lake Charles high. Russell Tritico is DeBakey's local attorney. "Dr. Debakey and his family look on Lake Charles as the place where their parents chose to raise them and they all look to Lake Charles as a place of endearment because that's where they got the education, that's where they made their friends, where their family lived and that's where their mother and father died, in Lake Charles."

Tritico's father, I.T. Tritico, and DeBakey went to school together. Tritico remembers stories about DeBakey's dedication as a young scholar. "He (I.T. Tritico) and Dr. Debakey would've been in the same class together in school. My dad would tell the stories about growing up, when they got out of school in the afternoons they would all go out and want to play. And they'd go and knock on Dr. Debakey's door, his family's door, and they would always come out and say, 'No, he's reading. He doesn't want to come out and play.'"

And Tritico says the family continues to remain interested in Lake Charles. "They always want to know, and I'm speaking of Dr. Lois DeBakey, Dr. Selma DeBakey and Dr. Michael DeBakey, always want me to keep them posted on what's going on in Lake Charles and when are they going to finish the airport."

Debakey has been honored locally with a bust at Central Library and there are plans to name Lake Charles airport complex after the brilliant surgeon whose talents and dedication have saved countless lives. Debakey turns 100 years old in September.