The heart does not know from love

Imagine me, a balcony...Ah, Valentine’s Day, that Hallmark herald of all things love and roses – where the heart, that fabled residence of the soul and wellspring of all things amorous, finds itself represented in “heart”-shaped boxes and chalk-flavored candies that command “Be Mine.” However, none of these totems of amore bear any likeness to the actual human heart, that chambered mass of muscle and tissue that serves the body, rather mundanely, as a mere blood pump. But ours is a culture inured to artificiality, if not artificial hearts themselves (remember the Tin Man’s ticker in the Wizard of Oz, embedded with clockface, counting down to who knows what terminus awaits a woodcutting robot). It brings to mind Barney Clark, the 61 year-old Seattle dentist into whom the Jarvik-7 artificial heart was transplanted in late 1982. Clark, who can be credited as the world’s first cyborg, “lived” an astonishing 112 days with the artificial heart. What is not generally known is that the design of the new-fangled organ was based on a patent gifted to the University of Utah by celebrity ventriloquist Paul Winchell in 1963 (read more about that here). “It has been hard, but the heart itself has pumped right along,” Clark said, ticking off his days as a prosethics pioneer. And still he might as well have been talking about love. As the Timex watch ads used to boast, “It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.”