The Heart of the Matter

“The more I know, the less I understand” – Don Henley, The Heart of the Matter (1989)

Here’s quite an unusual post for Funky Heart! readers – the subject today is not the human heart, but the heart of a kitten. This kitten was, unfortunately, found in a trash can. He was taken to a Vet where it was found that he had a severe upper respiratory infection.  Sad to say, the kitten died the next morning. To everyone’s surprise, the autopsy revealed that the kitten had a Congenital Heart Defect – Tricuspid Atresia!

Here are some photographs of the kitten’s defective heart. (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES!) First take note of how small it is. In the last two photos you can see a hand, so use the fingernail for comparison. The Ventricular Septal Defect is smaller than an adult Human’s thumbnail. Now imagine that is a human heart and you are the surgeon. Whatever you do, you had better be precise. There is absolutely no room for error here.

Next, notice the form of this heart. Many people seem surprised and shocked at just how “natural” a defective heart appears. In their mind they assume that it is full of ragged holes and jagged edges, almost like something that just doesn’t quite fit but has been forced together. More often than not, holes and malformed parts are nicely formed with smooth edges, and look perfectly natural. That can’t be wrong, you are lulled into thinking. It looks like it is supposed to work like that! Oh, how so many of us wish that were true!

The human heart is an amazing thing. It is designed to contract at a rate of 70 to 100 beats a minute, 24-7, 365, for over 70 years. Even defective hearts usually function for a while before they need help. They can expand when there is a problem and if that problem is corrected soon enough, they can shrink back to normal size without any permanent damage. And it is so interconnected – a heart problem can not only affect the heart and lungs as one might expect, but can also affect the liver, and the kidneys, and even the brain.

In the average adult human, it is the size of two fists and weighs roughly a pound, but everything – literally and figuratively – comes back to the heart.

And that is the heart of the matter.

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