If you get a chance, read His Heart Whirs Anew, a very interesting article in the Style section of this weekend’s Washington Post. The article discusses Peter Houghton, a 68 year old man who underwent an operation seven years ago that replaced the dysfunctional left ventricle of his heart with a titanium turbine. Mr. Houghton’s heart no longer thumps with blood, instead he says it whirs like a washing machine. But Mr. Houghton says the mechanical device has done more than prolong his life. He believes it has also altered his emotions. He says, I would describe myself as less intuitive. More of a thinking, more rational, less intuitive person. Less sure if I can do things by inspiration.
Scientists are uncertain why Houghton feels this way. Could it be machinery, drugs, depression, the lack of hormones excreted by the heart, or even that for hundreds of thousands of years, human brains have been optimized by having their oxygen delivered in pulse-driven spurts, not constant pressure. One of Houghton’s doctors said, It’s hard to measure being a human. …we do know that good restoration of blood flow restores health, a good experience of life. Implant recipients are normal again, restoring physical conditions. How they go on with their lives is what they do, now what doctors do.
The article discusses the clear distinction in modern day medicine between treating the body and treating the mind. Rather than realizing that changes to one causes drastic changes in the other, modern day doctors tend to treat the two completely separately.
When I became unexpectedly ill two years ago doctors thought I could have long term implications on the health of my heart. Shortly after being informed of this possibility I read an article that said patients with heart problems often suffer far greater depression then patients with other medical ailments. It seems there is a strong correlation between the heart and human emotions. When the heart is broken, the spirit appears to break too.
Over the last two years I have often found it difficult to deal with the emotional aspects of my illness and I know that my emotions have often caused further physical pain. The reciprocal relationship between the mind and body is often ignored by doctors. In an effort to heal both my spiritual and emotional well being I often sought comfort in the hands of acupuncturists and massage therapists who clearly saw the connection between the two.
The author says, in some subtle ways, our sense of self — who we are — is shaped by our carcasses. Shaped by the containers we drag around. When you become unexpectedly ill it can be quite difficult to rectify your new sense of self with a body that feels less than ideal.
This article was near and dear to my heart as I underwent an echocardiogram last week to rule out disease and dysfunction of my heart. By the grace of God it seems my heart is working just as it should. Although I have other physical limitations and pain as a result of my health issues I feel a relief that is impossible to explain. With the knowledge that my heart is healthy it seems my spirit has been lifted. In fact, it may be reaching a higher plateau than it held in my previously healthy state.