Thursday, November 10, 2005

How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?

In some cultures, the answer might involve warm milk and cookies, or a good therapist, or a few days of wild drunkenness and satisfyingly nasty revenge letters, or some self-reflection and journaling with a healthy dose of support from friends...but not in the culture of the hospital. When push comes to shove, and you've got more than 3-vessel blockage, we tell you that the best way to fix your heart is to crack open your chest, shunt all of the blood inside your body (which has been quite happy swimming through your warm little arteries and veins all its life) *outside* of your body through a complex system of tubes and cannisters that chills it down to about the temperature it might get to if you suddenly fell out of the boat while touring Niagara Falls in January...while your heart is literally stoppped cold, given its first minutes off of work in over *eighty-five years* (that is, if you happen to be 85), then repiped with pieces of the floppy spaghetti-like vein sliced out of the entire length of your right leg...and then it's all over and you wake up and POOF! you're fixed. Or so.

I held a man's heart in my hands today
yes my hands his heart

slippery smooth muscle covered in a layer of curly fat
not unlike one of those skinless boneless chicken breasts
wrapped on styrofoam trays at the supermarket meat counter
floppy and soft

the human heart is meant to be held
in the abstract:
hearts are regularly moved by beauty
touched by tender moments
but not by gloved fingers

sacred and profane tango together in the OR
the intimate blurs into the absurd and back again
are we saving a life or repairing a machine
it's not always clear

this heart lying in a pearly white bed of pericardium
did not lie passive during its respite
it pulsed
inexplicably, it pulsed
even though it had been medically stopped
no blood coursing through its chambers
its job contracted out to the venerable heart-lung bypass
a small area of the heart still pulsed
as if driven by a higher power
or energizer battery
to tell us I'm not ready to quit yet
sure, give my work over to your newfangled contraption
sure, fix me now
but I've done my job damn well
damn well
don't you dare treat me like I'm just a piece of meat.


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