A decade ago, doctors put a new heart in the chest of Hannah Clark, a two-year-old British girl whose own ticker was failing. But instead of removing her faulty heart, the surgeons simply implanted the donor organ over her original one. Why? Because she also needed a lung transplant, and her doctors wanted to avoid doing two risky transplants at once.
About five years later, the girl’s original ticker had healed on its own, and doctors were able to remove the second heart. The AP reports:
In 1994, when Clark was eight months old, she developed severe heart failure and doctors put her on a waiting list to get a new heart…
Sir Magdi Yacoub of Imperial College London, one of the world’s top heart surgeons, said that if Clark’s heart was given a time-out, it might be able to recover on its own. So in 1995 Yacoub and others grafted a donor heart from a 5-month-old directly onto Clark’s own heart.
After four and a half years, both hearts were working fine, so Yacoub and colleagues decided not to take out the extra heart.
Some doctors speculate that the regeneration may have been due to stem cells in the heart that leaped into action during a crisis, healing the damaged tissue.
Waiting for a healthy organ is one thing—waiting for a “moral” one is another. Despite the long wait time for many people awaiting organ transplants, some patients in the U.K. are reportedly willing to turn a healthy organ away…if it comes from a criminal.
While it may seem absurd, around a third of transplant patients have reported that they “take on” the personality traits of the organ’s original owner after a transplant, according to cognitive neuroscientist Bruce Hood at the University of Bristol. Some people claimed that their memory got sharper, or that they picked up new math skills — which could be attributed to the fact that the surgery makes people feel better mentally and psychologically.
Hood conducted a study to see if healthy people would also care about an organ donor’s moral tendencies. He asked 20 students to pretend that they were going to need a “life-saving heart transplant,” then showed them pictures of the potential donors and told them that some were murderers. Those who saw criminals were more likely to say they’d refuse the organ.
If six-year-old Bethany Jordan plays outside too vigorously, her heart will start pounding—through her back.
Jordan suffers from Ivemark Syndrome, an extremely rare genetic disorder. What it means is that, if you flip around the textbook picture of the inside of a human body, you’d have her body. She has five small spleens, a backwards liver that will require a transplant, and a poorly-formed cardiovascular system, including a hole in her heart, which is located behind her lungs rather than in the front of her chest. Her stomach is also on her right side, rather than her left. In fact, her anatomy, is so unusual that people now call her the “Jigsaw Kid.”
The misplaced organs didn’t come as a complete surprise to Jordan’s parents, Lisa and Robert. When doctors at Birmingham’s Women’s Hospital were performing routine pregnancy scans, they thought the unborn child was missing a spleen and might have Down’s Syndrome. After further tests, they found that the baby’s brain was normal—but that was about the only thing that was.