NHCH invites community to Bakken’s 90th birthday party


North Hawaii Community Hospital invites the community to join with hospital founder, Hawaii Island philanthropist and pacemaker inventor Earl Bakken to celebrate his 90th birthday with cake and ice cream 1:30-3 p.m. (while supplies last) Monday at the hospital.

This event is free and open to all.

Bakken, inventor of the first wearable, battery-powered, transistorized, external cardiac pacemaker, became deeply involved in the development of the 33-bed hospital in North Hawaii in the early 1990s, when the hospital was still a dream.

“We early organizers were trying to improve access to health care on our island. Earl brought us the vision of ‘Blended Medicine’ and of being ‘Not Just Another Hospital,’” said Susan Pueschel, first hospital employee and founding board member.

The term “blended medicine” was actually coined by Bakken during the creation of NHCH.

Bakken was born Jan. 10, 1924, in Columbia Heights, Minn. In 1949, he cofounded a company called Medtronic to service medical electronic equipment.

On Oct. 31, 1957, because of a blackout in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn., life-threatening problems caused the death of a sick infant known as a “blue baby.” One month later, Medtronic created the first wearable, battery-powered, transistorized, external cardiac pacemaker.

In 1984, The National Society of Professional Engineers named the invention of the cardiac pacemaker one of the 10 outstanding engineering achievements of the second half of the 20th century.

In 1989, Bakken retired from Medtronic and moved to Kiholo Bay.

At his retirement, Medtronic had 6,300 employees operating in 80 countries and nearly $750 million in annual sales.

After retiring to Hawaii, he became involved with Friends of the Future programs in North Hawaii, including Tutu’s House and Earl’s Garage. He also founded two nonprofits: Five Mountains Hawaii, for community health improvement on Hawaii Island, and The Kohala Center, to provide educational and university partnerships and explore Hawaii Island as a “microcosm of the world.” He also established a public radio repeater station for Kamuela 94.7 FM.

“Earl’s generous contributions to the health and wellness of the people of Hawaii Island are staggering,” said Wayne Higaki, NHCH vice president of public affairs and chief development officer. “Our hospital is just one of the ways Earl’s philanthropy and volunteerism have positively impacted and influenced health and wellness in North Hawaii. We are overwhelmed and grateful for Earl’s vision and leadership.”

NHCH is at 67-1125 Mamalahoa Highway. Call 881-4425 for more details.

 

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