This woman says she feels love differently since her heart transplant. She wants to know why

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Tapestry52:44Where the heart lives

Anne Marie Switzer was baptized and given her final rites at simply two days outdated.

She was born with a congenital heart illness referred to as transposition of the higher vessels. Even after receiving the life-saving surgical procedure often called the Mustard process, she nonetheless confronted many problems all through her life.

At 50 years outdated, she acquired the present she had prayed for her total life: a brand new heart.

But shortly after her heart transplant, one thing modified — one thing she could not simply clarify.

I know I love my household, however I do not get that squishy feeling [anymore].– Anne Marie Switzer

Perhaps most significantly, Switzer says her emotions of love are now not the identical.

“I do not know when the primary time I noticed it,” mentioned Switzer, who’s from Brampton, Ont. “I know I love my household, however I do not get that squishy feeling [anymore].”

Thoughts and recollections of her family members used to really feel heat and tingly, she mentioned. Now, they really feel logical or factual, or chilly.

“I love my husband, however I do not at all times get twitterpated anymore,” she added, referring to the butterflies-in-your-stomach, love-at-first-sight feeling described within the basic Disney movie Bambi.

“It’s undoubtedly a loss … as a result of I’m a heart particular person; I’m a love particular person; I’m a relationship particular person. I do not know how many individuals have instructed me, ‘You’ve acquired such a giant heart.’ And I miss that,” she mentioned.

“Why do not I really feel that?”

While seemingly uncommon, It’s not an unheard-of phenomenon.

Some researchers consider it could be attainable for donor organs to maintain and even go on the traits and experiences of its authentic proprietor onto the brand new recipient, through a course of often called mobile recollection.

Dr. Michael McDonald, a medical director on the Toronto General Hospital’s Ajmera Heart Transplant Centre, says the time period usually refers to how the physique develops immunity to illnesses.

“We all have mobile recollection as a part of our adaptive immune responses that retains us protected from illness, an infection and most cancers and something overseas,” he mentioned.

Dr. Michael McDonald is a medical director on the Toronto General Hospital’s Ajmera Heart Transplant Centre. (Anthony Olsen)

In different phrases, it permits our physique to keep in mind how to battle illnesses we’ve encountered earlier than. Transplant drugs consultants, nonetheless, work to ensure that identical response does not reject a brand new organ as a doubtlessly dangerous overseas object.

“When I’m pondering of [the] strictly medical operate of an organ, I’m … serious about: Is it doing what it is instructed to do by the remainder of the physique? Is it squeezing blood across the physique? Is it emptying? Is the heart rhythm regular?” mentioned McDonald.

“Beyond that, you know, it is onerous for me to say whether or not there are different elements to what a heart can provide, significantly from a donor that is not native to the recipient.”

Controversial science

Some researchers, nonetheless, have taken the concept of what organs can retailer — and maybe go on — even additional.

In a 2019 journal article revealed in Medical Hypotheses, Dr. Mitchell Liester introduced an concept that “recollections from the donor’s life are saved within the cells of the donated heart and are then ‘remembered’ by the recipient following transplant surgical procedure.”

The proof for it, nonetheless, stays inconclusive and extremely controversial.

Dr. John Wallwork, former director of transplant service for the U.Okay.’s National Health Service (NHS), says it is unattainable for a bodily organ to change your persona, your recollections or how you’re feeling.

“Our tradition sees the heart because the seat of life, love, the soul. There isn’t any foundation in science for this,” he supplied as an evidence.

A German examine from 1992 surveyed 47 sufferers who obtained an organ transplant, and located that almost all of them didn’t expertise any change to their personalities.

Fifteen per cent mentioned they did expertise adjustments, however attributed it to the trauma of present process a life-threatening process. Six per cent (three sufferers) mentioned their personalities had modified, and attributed it to their new hearts.

Although the numbers are small, Liester mentioned stories of persona adjustments after a heart transplant have existed for almost 50 years. But he added that “this phenomenon has not been nicely researched and isn’t nicely understood.”

He added “that neither the dearth of an sufficient explanatory model, nor doubts concerning the existence of such adjustments, disprove the prevalence of this expertise.”

A 2016 weblog put up by The University of Melbourne famous that many research that examined this phenomenon had been accomplished with very small pattern sizes, and generally with topics chosen to assist the researchers’ bias.

And the dialogue continues. In 2021, an article supplied a “hypothetical rationalization” of what it referred to as an organ donor’s “heart recollection switch” to some heart transplant recipients, citing the 1992 German examine amongst others.

That mentioned, McDonald acknowledged {that a} heart transplant is “some of the transformative experiences anyone can undergo.”

“We hear … loads after we’re face-to-face with our sufferers concerning the completely different sensory and emotional, cognitive, private experiences that they’ve after recovering from transplant,” he mentioned.

The Change of Heart memoir

One of probably the most well-known tales of the transplant-recipient expertise comes from the late Claire Sylvia. Her 1997 memoir, A Change of Heart, was tailored right into a 2002 movie referred to as Heart of a Stranger.

After her heart-lung transplant, she wrote that she felt as if “a second soul had been sharing my physique.” She skilled new needs, together with an urge for food for beer, junk meals and curvy blondes.

Five months after surgical procedure, she dreamt a few tall, younger man named Tim L. 

“We kiss, and it feels just like the deepest breath I’ve ever taken. And I know at that moment the 2 of us might be collectively ceaselessly,” Sylvia wrote.

“I wakened figuring out — actually figuring out — that Tim L. was my donor and that some elements of his spirit and persona had been now in me.”

She later found her donor’s id through a couple of particulars from her nurse, which she then used to discover his newspaper obituary. Eventually, she situated and visited Tim L.’s household. Their description of him matched the person she noticed in her dream.

Sylvia sought assist past her medical doctors, and consulted “open-minded scientists” who instructed her “mobile recollection” was the reason for her new appetites and recollections.

Where the heart lives

Since her transplant, Switzer has observed different adjustments. For instance, she went from not caring for the style of pickles, to wanting them on all her hamburgers.

Switzer by no means met her donor. She was allowed to write a letter of gratitude to their household through the heart transplant clinic. 

Still she strongly believes the adjustments she feels have one thing to do with her new heart. 

Phone taken by a smartphone camera of a woman sitting cross-legged on a hospital bed, smiling. Text added to the photo includes the words "Momma is getting a new heart" followed by several love-heart emojis.
Anne Marie Switzer, simply hours earlier than getting her heart transplant. Her surgical procedure was on Sept. 8, 2016. (Submitted by Anne Marie Switzer)

Switzer has heard and regarded the arguments — those who assist, and those who solid some doubt on the unusual phenomenon she says she skilled.

In the tip, she does not consider anybody can actually communicate to the heart-transplant-recipient expertise besides somebody who has been by means of it.

“They can [only] communicate to figuring out of, however they cannot communicate to figuring out, except they’ve had that have,” she mentioned.


Radio documentary written and produced by Mykella Van Cooten.

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