Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Post-heart attack sex has few risks

Most people can resume activities six to eight weeks after surgery: researchers


Post-heart attack sex has few risks

Sex requires the energy output of walking a treadmill at 4.8 to 6.4 km-h or climbing two flights of stairs at a brisk pace. That means people who have had treatments for heart conditions can resume sex if they achieve this level of fitness, according to a new report.

Photograph by: Marie-France Coallier, Postmedia News Files , Postmedia News

Heart attack survivors who can climb two flights of stairs briskly are likely ready to resume sex, but furtive encounters with extramarital partners could be fatal for men recovering from a cardiac "event." So warns the first scientific consensus statement to provide detailed advice on how to resume sex after a heart attack, bypass surgery or other heart condition - a document designed to help doctors overcome their own discomfort discussing sex with heart patients. "Patients want to know, 'When can I return to sexual activity?' " said lead author Elaine Steinke, professor of nursing at Wichita State University in Kansas.

The document applies to patients who have had a heart attack, an implantable heart device, a heart transplant, coronary artery bypass graft surgery, heart failure, stroke or other cardiovascular diseases, as well as to their partners. Published Monday in two journals, Circulation and European Heart Journal, the document covers everything from recommended positions and the strategic use of pillows to sexual activities less physically strenuous than intercourse. Anxiety, fear and body image issues from surgical scars can all affect intimacy and sexual functioning in people with heart disease, Steinke said.
Heart patients and their partners are often terrified that sex will trigger another heart attack, Steinke said, even though the data suggest that the risk is low - by some estimates less than one per cent. "I think that's something we need to communicate to cardiac patients and their partners," she said. "The risk isn't really all that high."

Where things get riskier is with extramarital sex, or sex with an unfamiliar partner. "Sexual activity with an extramarital partner could pose a health risk for those with cardiac disease," reads the consensus document from the American Heart Association and the European Society of Cardiology Council on Cardiovascular Nursing and Allied Professions.

The stress of illicit sex may increase blood pressure and heart rate significantly, they warned, "resulting in sudden death or cardiovascular events." Even so, the risks appear to be very low - "far less than that associated with anger and unaccustomed physical exercise." Exercise stress testing can be performed to determine if the person's heart is strong enough to resume sex, the authors said. Sex requires the energy output equivalent to walking a treadmill at three to four miles per hour, or climbing two flights of stairs at a brisk pace.

Sex can usually be resumed six to eight weeks after cardiac bypass surgery, Steinke said, and one to two weeks after an uncomplicated heart attack. Pillows can be used to support incision areas; a mild pain reliever can also help. Most heart attack patients are able to resume sex within about four weeks of the attack, though some take longer, up to a year.

Many people with implantable defibrillators worry about the device firing during sex. One study found that the percentage of patients receiving a shock during sex was 13 per cent. Patients should follow the same course of action if "shocked" during sex as they would with any shock, including reporting it to their doctor. Steinke said heart patients can start with activities such as hugging, kissing and fondling to gauge their tolerance for sex, building up to intercourse. Warning signs, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid or irregular heart rate or dizziness should be reported to doctors. Chest pain during sex that doesn't go away within 15 minutes, or five minutes after the use of nitroglycerine, should be treated as an emergency.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Life with an LVDA heart pump

By Julie Topping Qcity health

Julie is a former Charlotte resident now living in Detroit. She writes about nutrition and weight loss.
My husband came home after almost three weeks in the hospital following open-heart surgery. His heart is tired and it needed a boost. He is a candidate for a heart transplant, but because a heart didn’t get here quickly enough for him, he got an LVAD implanted on his ailing heart instead.
LVAD is short for a left ventricular assist device. Some people call it a heart pump. It is pumping the left side of his heart for him, the part that pushes blood through the body. It is made by Heartware and was approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration late last year for patients such as him who are waiting for transplants.
It’s a change of life. No more showers, because he is attached to an electrical power source with an electrical cord (called a driveline) that runs from his heart, out of his abdomen, to the control unit that runs the LVAD. The cord is very short, about 3 feet long. The control unit runs by batteries during the day, and at night it is plugged in because the batteries don’t last long enough to get through the night. There’s a fanny pack and a shoulder strap. My husband prefers to carry the pump and the two batteries it runs on (first one, then the other) on his shoulder. It is not lightweight.

Above is the open carrying casing holding the two batteries, (top), and the control unit (bottom).
We live in fear of losing electrical power. If we do, we have to go to a fire station, police station, or somewhere else that has power so he can plug in and charge his batteries. If we go somewhere, anywhere out of the house, we have to carry a backup power unit and two extra batteries in case something goes wrong with the control unit he is wearing. If we want to travel out of the Detroit metro area, the hospital will make sure we know where the nearest LVAD center is in case we need help.
We change the dressing on the area where the driveline leaves the body every three days. It is nerve-racking, but I am getting the hang of it. Infections and accidents happen most frequently at the driveline site. People get them caught on doorknobs and they pull loose. Or they get infected.
Other people in the heart and vascular area were jealous of his LVAD, because it is smaller, lighter and quieter than the previous generation of LVADs. Nurses were fascinated by it because it was new and they wanted to know how it worked. A representative from the manufacturer was in the operating room when the surgeon implanted it, and later at my husband’s bedside to chat. A nurse who was in the OR told me watching it being placed on his heart was amazing.

The four extra batteries are in their charger, ready to use.
There are many who take it for the miracle of science that it is. But it is not something you want to have done to your own body if you can help it. It's a complex issue.
Thank God science has made it available. But try to do everything you can to avoid needing one. Try to eat healthier, work out on a regular basis, watch your numbers (at the doctor's office and the ones on food labels) and lose excess weight.
As African Americans, we are more likely to get the diseases that are connected with unhealthy eating, the diseases that are drivers of heart failure. Diabetes. High blood pressure. High cholesterol. If you end up with this stuff and are obese or overweight, the LVAD could be in your life too. And you don't want it to be.
The LVAD is difficult to live with. Just getting into the habit of not walking away without it is a chore that needs to be learned. My husband resisted the idea of getting one at first because the whole idea of being attached to a small machine that pumps your blood is…well, it’s hard to think about.
But it is pumping my husband’s blood when everything else stopped working; a quiet soldier, giving my husband back his strength, his sense of taste, his ability to function and think sharply and clearly. He has blood flow. His skin and body are warm again. And the people at Henry Ford Health System who made this happen are heroes.
Thanking God for good people and for miracles. Hoping you don't have to experience the same miracle.
Eighty percent is the number of black women who are obese or overweight in this country. Julie Topping writes for The 80 Percent Solution, a Facebook page for African-American women who want to lose weight and live a healthy life. Email julie.green.topping@gmail.com
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Saturday, July 27, 2013

World Transplant Games in South Africa July 28 - Aug 2

Transplant games encourage people to donate organs

World Transplant Games Federation president, Olivier Coustere, said: “Countries that have hosted the event have experienced a 30% or higher increase in organ donation rates.” 

Lungile Mathupha, The New Age

The the biggest organ donor awareness event, the World Transplant Games, takes place in Durban from July 28 to August 2 and is set to draw 1800 participants from a total of 50 countries.

“This event, unfolding in various venues within the city, is a celebration of the human spirit, giving individuals with previously life-threatening illnesses, the chance to compete in a high-level sports event and prove that they can not only lead normal, fulfilling lives, but push the boundaries of their physical endurance,” James Nxumalo, mayor of eThekwini, said.

He added that the municipality was proud to be associated with these games, as they represented a very significant course which is saving people’s lives.

The eThekwini municipality said that the aim of the games is to offer hope to those awaiting transplants and encourage the public to become donors, by showing the difference that organ transplants can make to the lives of young and old.

Competitors have to be recipients of solid organs or bone marrow in order to participate in the qualifying games. The games include athletics, swimming, tennis, squash, golf, volleyball and bowling. In total there are 50 events competitors can get involved in.

There are also cycling and road races which will take place in the city.

The 100m race has a competition record of 11.18 seconds and the long jump 6.85m, so the standard of the games is high and expectations are high for a lot of excitement and good results from this year’s event.

In 2011 the games were hosted by Gothenburg, Sweden and from the 47 SA participants, the country won 17 gold medals, 17 silver and 14 bronze. Four South Africans hold World Transplant Games world records.

South African sports stars such as Chad Le Clos have teamed up to welcome all the competitors as well as to encourage the public to register as organ donors.

World Transplant Games Federation president, Olivier Coustere, said: “Countries that have hosted the event have experienced a 30% or higher increase in organ donation rates.” 

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Young woman prepares for British Transplant Games

Brighton woman with cystic fibrosis breathing new life into Transplant Games after lung op

Brighton woman with cystic fibrosis breathing new life into Transplant Games after lung op                                    Amanda Chalmers working with personal trainer
By Neil Vowles, The ArgusA young woman is to celebrate a new lease of life after gaining a new pair of lungs by taking part in the transplant games.
Amanda Chalmers is set to compete at the national games in tennis, archery and the 3km run next month less than a year after receiving a double lung transplant.
The 25-year-old, from Washington Street in Brighton, is working with a personal trainer in preparation for the games in Sheffield over the weekend of August 15 to 18.
The jewellery designer and maker had an active life during her childhood despite being born with cystic fibrosis and throughout her time at the University of Brighton she played competitive hockey.
However, she says she can chart the downfall in her condition from a trip to Vietnam in 2010 where she picked up a chest infection.
Eight months later and she was reliant on oxygen and could only leave the house with a mini oxygen pack. She suffered a collapsed lung while exercising in her home in September last year.
She said: “While I was in hospital recovering from the collapsed lung, I got called for the lung transplant which was very lucky. I went on the list for a pair of lungs in May, some people wait for years.
“Waking up from surgery, I had so many painkillers I didn’t think I had the operation. Once that wore off, I was just aware of the pain from surgery from having my sternum broken and I was in hospital for a month.
“You are told the age and sex of your donor, I was told it was a woman 30 years older than me, and there are ways to write to their family and find out more about your donor. It’s something I want to do but I am still in the process of writing that letter.
“I am not completely back to how I was before but I am so much further than I was.”
To sponsor Amanda at the Transplant Games and raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity, visit her donation page.
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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kidney recipient gets rabies from donor organ

An investigation into the source of a fatal case of raccoon rabies virus exposure indicates the individual received the virus via a kidney transplant 18 months earlier, findings suggesting that rabies transmitted by this route may have a long incubation period, and that although solid organ transplant transmission of infectious encephalitis is rare, further education to increase awareness is needed, according to a study in the July 24/31, 2013 issue of JAMA.

The rabies virus causes a fatal encephalitis and can be transmitted through tissue or organ transplantation. “Unique rabies virus variants, distinguishable by molecular typing methods, are associated with specific animal reservoirs. Globally, an estimated 55,000 persons die of rabies every year, with most transmission attributable to dog bites. Approximately two human rabies deaths are reported in the United States every year and during 2000 through 2010, all but two domestically acquired cases were associated with bats. Despite raccoons being the most frequently reported rabid animal in the United States, only l human rabies case associated with the raccoon rabies virus variant has been reported,” according to background information in the article. In February 2013, a kidney recipient with no reported exposures to potentially rabid animals died from rabies 18 months after transplantation.

Neil M. Vora, MD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and colleagues conducted a study to determine whether organ transplantation was the source of rabies virus exposure in the kidney recipient, and to evaluate for and prevent rabies in other transplant recipients (n = 3; right kidney, heart, and liver) from the same donor. Organ donor and all transplant recipient medical records were reviewed. Laboratory tests to detect rabies virus-specific binding antibodies, rabies virus neutralizing antibodies, and rabies virus antigens were conducted on available specimens, including serum, cerebrospinal fluid, and tissues from the donor and the recipients.

The researchers found that in retrospect, the kidney donor's symptoms prior to death were consistent with rabies (the presumed diagnosis at the time of death was ciguatera poisoning). Subsequent interviews with family members revealed that the donor had significant wildlife exposure, and had sustained at least two raccoon bites, for which he did not seek medical care. Rabies virus antigen was detected in archived autopsy brain tissue collected from the donor. The rabies viruses infecting the donor and the deceased kidney recipient were consistent with the raccoon rabies virus variant and were more than 99.9 percent identical across the entire N gene, thus confirming organ transplantation as the route of transmission.

The three other organ recipients did not have signs or symptoms consistent with rabies or encephalitis. They have remained asymptomatic, with rabies virus neutralizing antibodies detected in their serum after completion of postexposure prophylaxis.

“This transmission event provides an opportunity for enhancing rabies awareness and recognition and highlights the need for a modified approach to organ donor screening and recipient monitoring for infectious encephalitis. This investigation also underscores the importance of collaboration between clinicians, epidemiologists, and laboratory scientists,” the authors write.

This investigation was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, North Carolina Division of Public Health, and Florida Department of Health and funded as part of routine infectious disease outbreak investigation activities.
Reference: JAMA. 2013;310(4):398-407.

In an accompanying editorial, Daniel R. Kaul, MD, of the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, Mich., writes that during the past decade, numerous instances have been reported of donor-derived infection among recipients of solid organ transplants with pathogens associated with central nervous system (CNS) infections, including the West Nile virus and rabies virus. 

“Educational efforts to improve recognition of donors with CNS infection and the risks associated with using these donors should be directed not just at the transplant community but at the larger community of physicians involved in the care of potential donors—particularly critical care specialists, neurologists, and infectious disease physicians. These clinicians may not be aware of the potential for donor-derived infection, but accepting transplant centers must rely on the clinical impression of those caring for the potential donor. Although the risk of donor-derived disease is inherent in the process of organ transplantation and cannot be eliminated, raising awareness of the risk of using donors with undiagnosed CNS infection is the best way to reduce the occurrence of these transmissions.”
Reference: JAMA. 2013;310(4):378-379. 

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Transplant survivor promotes organ donations at Charleston Area Medical Center

Texan received liver from W.Va. girl, 12

Lawrence Pierce
Texas lawyer Nefeterius McPherson is alive today because of a liver donated after the death of 12-year-old Taitlyn Hughes of Martinsburg, whose picture appears in the upper left. McPherson spoke Friday at Charleston Area Medical Center about the importance of organ donation.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cancer survivor awaits double lung transplant

Newfoundland, Canada woman says organ donations save lives
Doiron’s ovarian cancer diagnosis came in August 2009. Her last chemotherapy session took place that December. Doctors told her a month later she was cancer-free.

Jeanine and Kirk Doiron. — Submitted photo
Jeanine and Kirk Doiron. — Submitted photo

By Andrew Robinson - The Telegram 

Jeanine Doiron of Mount Pearl says she is “terribly homesick” while staying at Toronto General Hospital, where the 34-year-old is waiting for a double lung transplant to treat pulmonary hypertension, an ailment she has lived with for four years.

“Toronto certainly isn’t St. John’s,” said Doiron with emotion in her voice.

2009 was a tumultuous year for Doiron.

Her diagnosis for pulmonary hypertension came only a few months before doctors informed her she had ovarian cancer. She often felt short of breath and tired in the leadup to learning about her conditions.

“Beyond scary is about the only way I can describe it,” recalled Doiron, who is originally from Witless Bay.

“It’s bad enough getting one, let alone the second diagnosis.”

Doiron’s ovarian cancer diagnosis came in August 2009. Her last chemotherapy session took place that December. Doctors told her a month later she was cancer-free.

She flew to Toronto two weeks ago after staff at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s determined that specialized medication was not doing enough to reduce her blood pressure and that increasing her dosage was not an option. Doiron has tried several medications over the last four years. Pulmonary hypertension is known to limit a person’s energy level and can cause heart failure.

She knew from the start that a double lung transplant may be necessary. Now Doiron is waiting for an appropriate donor to be identified.

“It could happen today. It might not happen for two years. It’s whenever the proper match comes along.”

Speaking to The Telegram, Doiron emphasized the importance of organ donation.

“There’s so many of us that need this. Our lives depend on it.”

Recovery is expected to take an additional three months following surgery, thus extending her stay in Toronto.

Taking time off work and leaving home for an indeterminate length of time has been hard on Doiron and her husband Kirk, but she said family, friends and her employer have been very supportive.

“My friends and family have been a rock wall for me,” said Doiron. “I’ve been very lucky.”

People back home have organized a dance and silent auction to be held July 26 at the Knights of Columbus on St. Clare Avenue in St. John’s.

Jeanine said staff at the Toronto hospital have been fabulous so far, and she’s grateful to have a sister living in Kingston who visits her as often as possible.

“She lives a few hours away, but she’s back and forth, thankfully,” said Jeanine.

Kirk Doiron said it has been hard to watch his wife battle through her health problems. He has taken on most household duties and provides all the emotional support he can. The couple has been together for 17 years.

“She has her ups and her downs, no doubt,” he said. “A young woman, 34 years old, going through that. Never drank. Never smoked. Never touched drugs.… She wonders what she did wrong. I guess it’s normal to wonder that kind of stuff.”

Kirk is optimistic about his wife’s chances of making a full recovery.

“She’s got the will to live and otherwise good health. She’s fighting, for sure.”

Anyone with items to donate for the auction next week can email jdfund@hotmail.ca or call 709-746-0443 or 709-691-8070.

Tickets for the dance and silent auction are $10 and can be purchased by writing to the previously mentioned email address or by calling 709-745-7650.

A bank account has also been set up at Scotiabank for the fundraiser under the name “Fundraiser for Jeanine Doiron.”

Its account number is 21113 00673 18.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Splitting Donated Livers Shown to be Safe for Transplant

Splitting Donated Livers Shown to be Safe, Allowing Doctors to Save Two Lives from Single Organ

Thursday, July 18, 2013

EXVIVO offers high hopes for new transplant technology

Those waiting for lung transplants have high hopes for new technology

I am very pleased to post this article as I have had the pleasure of following the clinical trials from the beginning. Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, who lead the development of the Toronto XVIVO Perfusion System is the surgeon who performed my  lung transplant 11 years ago. You can read more here about this medical breakthrough that is having a global impact in saving lives.

The first successful transplants after ex vivo perfusion were done in Sweden in 2001, and the system under clinical trials in the U.S. was developed by a research group in Toronto in 2008. The Toronto group, said Love, has since done about 90 transplants of lungs that otherwise would have been thrown out. Lungs treated with the ex vivo technique now account for about 20% of their transplants, and the results are promising.

Told he had less than a year to live, Trey Schwab, then the assistant men's basketball coach at Marquette University, hung on for 26 months before the right set of lungs became available for transplant in 2004.

When his surgeon opened him up and saw his lungs, Schwab recalled, the doctor said he only would have lasted another few weeks.
For Patricia Nichols, the wait isn't over. Nichols, 53, of Milwaukee, has been on the transplant list for about a year, and is still waiting.
Now, a technology called ex vivo lung perfusion is nearing the end of clinical trials in the United States, and may shorten waits for transplanted lungs. This technology is on its way to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa in the laboratory of surgeon Robert Love.
Wait times for lung transplants are long — in large part because only a small fraction of the lungs offered for donation are deemed good enough to give to a patient.
"Twenty percent," said Nichols. "That's so few."
Using the ex vivo technology, said Love, "I expect that would increase to 50%."
Love, chief of cardiac surgery at Froedtert, recently received an ex vivo perfusion system for research use. Froedtert hopes to use the technology clinically as soon as it is FDA-approved.
The process involves putting lungs that have been removed from a donor on a machine that ventilates them and circulates a blood replacement fluid called perfusate, Love said.
This helps surgeons use lungs that would otherwise be discarded, because they can check that the lungs function properly before transplanting them. They can monitor how well the lungs expand, and how well they transfer oxygen to the perfusate.
Surgeons also can treat the lungs before they're transplanted.
"It's a living, personalized medicine for the set of lungs," Love said.
Treating lungs on the ex vivo perfusion machine, he explained, can help doctors remove extra fluid from them. It also gives them a chance to treat the lungs with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and antivirals before transplantation.
Nilto De Oliveira, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison medical school and a surgeon, has done research on ex vivo perfusion and likened the ex vivo equipment to "a repair center for organs."
The first successful transplants after ex vivo perfusion were done in Sweden in 2001, and the system under clinical trials in the U.S. was developed by a research group in Toronto in 2008.
The Toronto group, said Love, has since done about 90 transplants of lungs that otherwise would have been thrown out. Lungs treated with the ex vivo technique now account for about 20% of their transplants, and the results are promising.
"Their results with these lungs are really the same as with the standard lung transplant," he said.
This increase in the number of lungs available could help shorten the wait times for transplants, and perhaps reduce the number of patients who die each year on the wait list.
"To me as a recipient, that's huge, and I know that it's huge to the thousands of people that are waiting," said Schwab.
Nichols said that if she were offered lungs rehabilitated with the ex vivo technique, she'd jump at the chance.
"If there was an opportunity," she said, "I would say yes for sure."
Love, who is on the FDA safety monitoring board for the U.S. clinical trial, is optimistic the ex vivo technology will be approved for wide use before long. But, he said, there's still work to be done, which is why his lab got an ex vivo system for research purposes.
Surgeons also are exploring the possibility of using gene therapy to help repair the lungs before transplant. In the future, said Love, treating lungs on the ex vivo system might help reduce the risk of chronic rejection, or make it possible to use lungs from patients who die at home rather than in the hospital.
De Oliveira said he thinks that using these treatments to reduce chronic rejection is a "huge jump," but is still optimistic about using ex vivo perfusion to improve donor lungs.
"I think the potential for the technique is endless," he said.
But technology is only part of the solution when it comes to finding enough lungs — and the right lungs — to meet the needs of those on the transplant waiting lists.
The rest comes down to getting people to register as donors, especially among minority groups. African-Americans comprise about 20% of transplant recipients, but only 15% of donors, though the numbers vary by organ.
"We have to get the word out about people signing up to be donors, especially African-Americans," said Nichols, who is African-American.
Milwaukee County has a particularly low donor registration rate, said Schwab, who is now the outreach coordinator at the UW Organ and Tissue Donation program and worked to develop Wisconsin's online donor registration system.
Nichols noted it only takes a few minutes to register. And for those on the fence, she suggested asking themselves, "What if this were somebody that I love that needed this?"
Because, she said, "it is somebody's loved one."

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Memory transference in organ transplant recipients

There's been much discussion over the years about organ transplant recipients experiencing changes in their talents and personality following their surgery. I personally don't think I've changed in any way but the idea of memory transference is interesting. There are an estimated 100 trillion CELLS in the human body and each one contains a complete set of the human genome (except egg and sperm cells, which have one copy each, and blood cells which have none). So, it goes to reason that if a donor's organ contains copies of their DNA is there not the opportunity for memory transference? The following article provides us with food for thought.

Memory transference in organ transplant recipients

Sandeep Joshi

Editor’s note:
There is a physical side and an occult side to everything. This article discusses both sides of the coin with regard to organ transplant and its effect upon the recipient’s personality.

There have been perplexing reports of organ transplant receivers claiming that they seem to have inherited the memory, experiences and emotions of their deceased donors, and which are causing quirky changes in their personality.  We will present a few cases and then discuss a possible explanation in the light of the occult insights of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Mirra Alfassa.

Cases of personality changes due to organ transplants

Before we discuss the cases, it is pertinent to note that apart from miscellaneous information such as gender, age and cause of death, profiles of organ donors are traditionally concealed from their recipients for psychological reasons. The cases listed here came to light after mysterious behavioural symptoms of recipients compelled a breach in the traditional donor-recipient anonymity.

Dr Pearsall has collected the accounts of seventy-three heart transplant patients, and sixty-seven other organ transplant recipients and published them. These reports have been published in (2, 3, 4). We discuss a few cases here.

Case 1: Claire Sylvia develops desire for chicken nuggets and green peppers

On May 29, 1988, an American woman named Claire Sylvia received a heart transplant at a hospital in Yale, Connecticut. She was told that her donor was an eighteen year-old male from Maine, USA who had just died in a motorcycle accident. Soon after the operation, Sylvia declared that she felt like drinking beer, something she hadn't particularly been fond of. Later, she observed an uncontrollable urge to eat chicken nuggets and found herself drawn to visiting the popular chicken restaurant chain, KFC. She also began craving green peppers which she hadn’t particularly liked before. Sylvia also began having recurring dreams about a mystery man named Tim L., whom she felt was the organ donor. On a cue from someone, she searched for obituaries in newspapers published from Maine and was able to identify the young man whose heart she had received. His name had indeed been Tim. After visiting Tim’s family, she discovered that he used to love chicken nuggets, green peppers and beer. These experiences are documented in the book, A Change of Heart (1).

Case 2: a foundry worker develops a taste for classical music

A 47 year-old white male foundry worker, who received the heart of a 17 year-old black male student, discovered after the operation that he had developed a fascination for classical music. He reasoned that since his donor would have preferred ‘rap’ music, his newfound love for classical music could not possibly have anything to do with his new heart. As it turned out, the donor actually loved classical music, and died “hugging his violin case” on the way to his violin class (2).

Case 3: murder mystery involving donor is solved by an organ recipient

An eight year-old girl, who received the heart of a murdered ten year-old girl, began having recurring vivid nightmares about the murder. Her mother arranged a consultation with a psychiatrist who after several sessions concluded that she was witnessing actual physical incidents. They decided to call the police who used the detailed descriptions of the murder (the time, the weapon, the place, the clothes he wore, what the little girl he killed had said to him) given by the little girl to find and convict the man in question (2). 

Case 4: the gender transplant

The donor was a 19 year-old woman killed in an automobile accident. The recipient was a 29 year-old woman diagnosed with cardiomyopathy secondary to endocarditis.

The donor’s mother reported:

“My Sara was the most loving girl. She owned and operated her own health food restaurant and scolded me constantly about not being a vegetarian. She was a great kid — wild, but great. She was into the free-love thing and had a different man in her life every few months. She was man-crazy when she was a little girl and it never stopped. She was able to write some notes to me when she was dying. She was so out of it, but she kept saying how she could feel the impact of the car hitting them. She said she could feel it going through her body.”

The recipient reported:

“You can tell people about this if you want to, but it will make you sound crazy. When I got my new heart, two things happened to me. First, almost every night, and still sometimes now, I actually feel the accident my donor had. I can feel the impact in my chest. It slams into me, but my doctor said everything looks fine. Also, I hate meat now. I can’t stand it. I was McDonald’s biggest money-maker, and now meat makes me throw up. Actually, whenever I smell it, my heart starts to race. But that’s not the big deal. My doctor said that’s just due to my medicines. I couldn’t tell him, but what really bothers me is that I’m engaged to be married now. He’s a great guy and we love each other. The sex is terrific. The problem is, I’m gay. At least, I thought I was. After my transplant, I’m not… I don’t think, anyway...I’m sort of semi- or confused gay. Women still seem attractive to me, but my boyfriend turns me on; women don’t. I have absolutely no desire to be with a woman. I think I got a gender transplant.”

The recipient’s brother reported:

“Susie’s straight now. I mean it seriously. She was gay and now her new heart made her straight. She threw out all her books and stuff about gay politics and never talks about it anymore. She was really militant about it before. She holds hands and cuddles with Steven just like my girlfriend does with me. She talks girl-talk with my girlfriend, where before she would be lecturing about the evils of sexist men. And my sister, the queen of the ‘Big Mac‘, hates meat. She won’t even have it in the house (3).

Case 5: a catering manager develops artistic talent.

This story comes from the British tabloid, The Daily Mail. William Sheridan, a retired catering manager with poor drawing skills, suddenly developed artistic talents after a heart transplant operation. He was amazed to discover that the man who donated his new heart had been a keen artist (5).

Case 6: the living heart transplant

Among the strangest case Paul Pearsall encountered was that of two men who shared the same heart.

Jim (original names withheld), who was dying of bad lungs, received a heart and lung transplant from a young woman who had just died. Since Jim’s old heart was still robust, it was transplanted into another man named Fred. After this domino transplant, Fred who was formerly laid-back began exhibiting the Type A aggressive behavior of Jim. During intimate moments, Fred would call his wife "Sandy", much to the consternation of his wife Karen. Jim’s wife’s name was Sandra. On the other hand, Jim became morose and sullen after the transplant and died a few years later. It was discovered that Jim’s donor had been a shy, soft-spoken young woman who had worked part-time in a flower shop, and had committed suicide in despair over a lost love (2).

Cases independently investigated in Europe

Dr. Benjamin Bunzel from the Department of Surgery at the UniversityHospital in Vienna has investigated the cases of forty-seven heart transplant recipients. He reports that 15 percent of his sample stated that their personality had changed due to what they felt was the life-threatening event of transplantation itself, but they did not attribute their experienced change to their donor. Six percent, or three patients, reported a distinct change of personality due to their new hearts. They added that they felt compelled to change their prior feelings and reactions to accommodate those they sensed as coming from the memories of their donor. Seventy-nine percent said that their personality had not changed in any way at all post-operatively. The patients who reported no-change employed defense mechanisms and exhibited angry and hostile reactions to questions about the possible receipt of the energy from their donor. They were often eager to change the subject and mocked the question itself (6).

General discussion

To put things in perspective, not all organ transplant recipients undergo personality changes. There were about 2,210 heart transplants in the USA in 2007 (7). According to a German specialist, Reiner Korfe, worldwide there are probably about 3,500 heart transplants performed every year (8).

Dr. Pearsall has observed that heart transplant recipients seemed to be the most susceptible to personality changes. Patients who had undergone organ transplants for kidney and liver also sensed changes in their sense of smell, food preference, and emotional factors, but these changes were usually transitory and could be associated with medications and other factors of transplantation. The findings for heart transplants appear more robust and more strongly associated with the donor’s history.

Given that not all heart transplant patients report personality changes, what might be the distinguishing characteristics of those who seem vulnerable? Pearsall identified about eighteen distinguishing traits amongst the people he interviewed whom he calls ‘cardio-sensitives’. All but two who reported memory transference were women. They had good emotional IQ, were environmentally sensitive, sensual, animal-loving, music-loving, creative types, more inclined to go with the flow rather than dominate. He notes that these traits were similar to the characteristics of easily hypnotized subjects and those who were successful energy-connecting operators and percipients in the PEAR (Princeton Engineering Anomalies Researchprogram.

Skeptical explanations

Skeptics might put forth one of the following explanations for this phenomenon:
● The heart is a vital organ and a new heart can breathe new power into the body to palpably change the personality.
● These changes are due to drug reaction caused by the immune-suppressants which are administered during organ transplants.
● Heart transplant patients are being subconsciously influenced by the information provided or overheard during their hospital stay. Incidentally, this has been dubbed the ‘hospital grapevine theory’.
These theories may explicate a few details in some cases but not Case 3, where the organ recipient’s dreams led to the conviction of the donor’s murderer.

Prevalent alternative explanations

Various theories have been proposed to explain this notion of ‘cellular memory’. This is a survey of a few prominent ones:
Little brain in the heart
In 1994, Dr Armour introduced the concept of a functional ‘heart brain (9).’ His analysis revealed that the heart has an intrinsic nervous system of its own, containing around 40,000 neurons called sensory neurites. The heart acts independently of the brain, sending and receiving meaningful messages of its own through the autonomic nervous system. It is possible that this newly discovered centre of intelligence is responsible for the memory transfer.

Neuropeptide theory

Pharmacologist Candace Pert proposed that neuropeptides which are stored in every cell act as a sort of biochemical correlate of emotion. It was previously thought that emotions resided in the limbic system in the brain. According to Pert, neuropeptides are protein-like messenger molecules released by the brain neurons which flow through the body communicating among the nervous, immune, endocrine, muscle, and skeletal systems via blood, interstitial fluids and the central nervous system, which are all body fluids. At present, about 100 different peptides are known to be released by various populations of neurons in the mammalian brain. Neuropeptides have also been found in the heart, which could explain some forms of cellular memories reported by heart transplant recipients (10).

Magnetic field theory

Cells in the heart have a unique magnetic property and respond to and interact with magnetic fields. There may be an as yet undiscovered electro-magnetic connection between the brain and heart expressed in a form of energy that contains some level of cellular memory.

Unprepared spirit theory

Psychic healers interviewed by Dr Pearsall speculated that these experiences were caused because the donor’s spirit was still attached to the earth and had not yet moved to its abode in the higher subtle worlds.
Psychometry theory

Some ‘psychics’ suggested that the heart of the donor is an ‘object’ that is imbued with the psychic energy of the donor much as a ring or other object can carry the energy of the owner. Biologist Lyall Watson suggested that physical items with which we are in intimate contact can indeed take on our emotional fingerprints and store our thoughts and feelings. If plants and inanimate objects can store our feelings and thoughts, it is possible that our body organs, which are most intimately connected to us, also contain our emotional imprints.

I have omitted a few other ‘non-local’ explanations which can be read in Dr Pearsall’s book (2).

The last two explanations — unprepared Spirit and psychometry theory — are aligned with some of the occult insights offered by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on the nature of memory and the process of death. 

Regarding the concept of ‘cellular memory’, Sri Aurobindo said memory permeates the consciousness since all Prāṇa is technically memory:

Disciple : What is memory ? Is it a mental faculty?

Sri Aurobindo: Memory is everywhere. All that one is conscious of or not, is recorded in the “Prana”, the basic stuff of consciousness. But one remembers only that which one has attentively heard and fixed in his mind. But generally these impressions are received by the “Prana” and immediately they sink into the sub­conscious, or the subliminal consciousness, or whatever you like to call it…Even the soles of our feet have got a memory of their own…

…”we have divided the being into the mental, vital and physical. But when we speak of the mental, we take the mind working on its own plane, so to say. But all the parts are interconnected and the mind is working from above down right up to the lowest plane of consciousness and so it is with every principle (11).”

It was known in ancient India that food is imbued with the consciousness of the cook, which later became the basis for the discriminative orthodox practice of not eating food cooked by people of lower caste. Similarly, the Mother remarked that “in a greater or lesser proportion, you swallow along with the meat a little of the consciousness of the animal you eat (12).”

On a comparative note, the Renaissance physician, Paracelsus had noted the existence of ‘Mumia’, a vital essence which suffuses human parts.

“Mumia: the essence of life contained in some vehicle (vitality clinging to some material substance). Parts of the human, animal, or vegetable bodies, if separated from the organism, retain their vital power and their specific action for a while, as is proved by the transplantation of skin, by vaccination, poisoning by infection from corpses, dissection wounds, infection from ulcers, etc. (Bacteria are such vehicles of life.) Blood, excrements, etc., may contain vitality for a while after having been removed from the organism, and there may still exist some sympathy between such substances and the vitality of the organism; and by acting upon the former, the latter may be affected (13).”

But ‘cellular memory’ may not explain every thing, because not every organ seems to induce a memory transfer. As Pearsall observed, people who receive heart transplants seem to be the most susceptible to personality changes. Furthermore, the effects seem to be exacerbated after the death of the donor, as in Case 1 and Case 3 where the recipient began having dreams of the donor’s life. Given the fact that organ transplants are always done within hours after doctors have diagnosed outer signs of physical death, it is of relevance to note the Mother’s observation that there is a “spirit of the form” which persists in the body even after outer signs of death (14).

It is conceivable that it is the premature organ harvesting which is intensifying the memory transfer from the donor to the receiver. As the Mother expatiated on death and cremation:

“(People in India) are in too much of a hurry to burn the dead, sometimes they burn them alive!… They should wait for there’s a consciousness of the form, a life of the form assumed by the cells, which takes seven days to come out. And that is why sometimes the body makes abrupt movements when burned — people say it’s mechanical. It’s not mechanical, I know it’s not.

“So I don’t like this habit of burning people very much.

I think they do it here (apart from entirely sanitary considerations in the case of people who have died from nasty diseases), here in India, mainly because they are very afraid of all these little entities that come from desires, impulses — things which are dispersed in the air and which make ‘ghosts’ and all kinds of things. All desires, all attachments, all those things are like pieces that break off (each one goes its own way, you see), then these pieces gain strength in the surrounding atmosphere, and when they can fasten on to someone, they vampirize him. Then they keep on trying to satisfy their desires (15).”

Hence, it is conceivable that these fragments of the donor’s vital sheath, which are imbued with the living memories of impulses and desires, attach themselves to the heart and find a new home in the organ transplant recipient, thereby inducing the memory transfer. 

In the process of writing this article, I discovered an article written by Michael Tymn (16) which deserves to be mentioned.


1. Sylvia, Claire. A Change of heart:  a memoir. New York; Warner Books, 1997.
2. Pearsall, Paul. The Heart’s code: tapping the wisdom and power of our heart energy. New York; Broadway Books, 1999.
3. Pearsall, Paul, et al. “Organ transplants and cellular memories ” Nexus Magazine April/May 2005;12:3 .
4. Pearsall, Paul, et al. ”Changes in heart transplant recipients that parallel the personalities of their donors” Journal of Near-Death StudiesSpring 2002; 20:3 . (Accessed Jan 29, 2011).
5. “The Art Transplant” The Daily Mail March 31,2006.  . (Accessed Jan 29, 2011).
6. Bunzel, B., et al. Does changing the heart mean changing personality? A retrospective inquiry on 47 heart transplant patients.Quality of Life Research 1992; Vol. 1: 251-6.
7. Fitzpatrick, Laura. “A Brief History of Heart Transplants” Time Magazine Nov. 16, 2009 < http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1939493,00.html>.
8. .
9. Armour, J.A., Ardell, J.L., eds. Neuro-cardiology. New York; Oxford University Press, 1994.
10. Pert, Candace. Molecules of Emotion: why you feel the way you feel. New York; Scribner, 1997.
11. Purani, A.B. (recorded by). Evening Talks with Sri AurobindoThird edition. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1982, p. 433.
12. The Mother. Collected Works of the MotherVolume 6. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1979, p. 179.
13. Hartmann, Franz. Paracelsus Life and Teachings. New York; Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1973, p. 37.
14. The Mother. Collected Works of the MotherVolume 5. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1979, p. 136.
15. The Mother. Mother’s AgendaVolume 1. Paris; Institut de Recherches Evolutives, 1978, p. 376.
16. Tymn, Michael. “Are organ transplants metaphysically contraindicated?” Journal of Religion and Psychical Research July 2001;24:3:153-61. .
Sandeep Joshi is a computer engineer currently living in the USA. He writes an Integral Yoga blog athttp://www.auromere.wordpress.com

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