Of Hearts and Minds
David Malone is a science documentary filmmaker and he came to Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire. He's there at the invitation of Consultant Surgeon Mr. Francis Wells who is going to allow him to watch him perform open heart surgery. He's always wanted to see the beating human heart, that thing within us that keeps us alive. The heart is unlike any other organ in the human body. It has its own rich language and poetry. Throughout history, it has been a potent symbol in our religion, literature, and philosophy.
It has been seen as the site of our emotions, the very center of our being. But modern medicine has come to see the heart as just a pump, a brilliant pump, but nothing more. And we view ourselves, as ruled by our heads and not our hearts. And yet, there's something about the heart that makes David wonder whether there is more to it than this. So he wants to explore the story of the heart.
Open heart surgery is one of the great triumphs of modern medicine. To perform such operations, surgeons can't help but view the heart as a machine; something that can be fixed when it goes wrong. But for Mr. Francis Wells, one of Britain's leading Heart Specialists, this is a machine that can still inspire wonder. For Mr. Wells, the heart's extraordinary biology, gives it a beauty all of its own. He sees no need to romanticize the role of the heart beyond its vital function as a pump.
He reminds us that 99.99% of the poets in the past have never seen the human heart before. We all like this emotional interplay but the heart is a bunch of muscles with some nerves that stimulate it. It has some chemical receptors which allow it to respond to chemical and neurological stimuli. Whilst we all want to think of it as being this incredible fanciful structure, we all do, but in reality it's a pump. That's what it does.
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